Paying IWK to pollute our rivers?


It is most heartening to read in The Star’s reports of April 2 “Khir: IWK main polluter” and April 25 “IWK the biggest polluter”. From the statements in these reports by the respective Selangor state and Federal governments it is clear that the authorities have finally woken up to the stark reality that IWK, a privatisation in Malaysia mired in controversies, confusion and cosumer dissatisfaction, is a complete failure.

Since the incorporation of IWK in 1994, I have been a strong advocate that the privatisation of sewerage services in Malaysia would be doomed to failure. And I had written many letters to the print media in the second half of the 90s expressing my doubts that IWK was capable of undertaking the mammoth task of managing efficiently the sewerage services in this country. But my comments have, as expected, fallen on deaf ears.

My main concern then was that IWK’s main responsibility was only to regularly desludge septic tanks and maintain other existing sewage treatment facilities. By just desludging individual septic tanks without formulating any development programme to replace them and also just maintaining existing communal sewage treatment plants like oxidation ponds and imhoff tanks without any programme to rehabilitate and improve them will not be effective in improving the water quality of our rivers and waterways which is the principal objective of this privatisation exercise.

But over the years, IWK has not been regularly desludging individual septic tanks and has also failed to maintain existing communal sewage treatment facilities. On the latter, one can easily see what IWK has done to one in an urban area like Petaling Jaya; it just maintains the fenced compound of the facility with the sewage treatment plant not operating!

Now that the Selangor state and Federal governments are aware that IWK is the main cause of water pollution of our rivers, it is hope some drastic actions are taken to address this serious environmental pollution problem. But one wonders why for so long the Department of Sewerage Services and the Department of Environment have not been seen to do anything.

Worst, if consumers have been paying their sewerage charges to IWK are they not abetting the latter to pollute our rivers? 2007