IT was a disaster waiting to happen. And it did. Since the Pakatan-controlled Selangor government chose to use water as a political weapon against Putrajaya, the consequences will definitely be bad. And what the Selangor folks are experiencing now — water cuts for days — is something that’s not unexpected.
The state government’s water politics approach could be backfiring now, with not only residents but businesses, too, suffering from inept water planning, management and control of one of the country’s most developed states.
The powers that be in Selangor must realise that water is a scarce resource. It needs a proper long-term plan to manage the water resources to avoid a potential crisis.
In fact, the world is on the verge of a water crisis.
By 2025, more than half the nations in the world will face freshwater stress or shortages and, by 2050, as much as 75 per cent of the world’s population could face freshwater scarcity.
One report has suggested that in 46 countries, home to 2.7 billion people, climate change and water-related crises create a high risk of violent conflict. A further 56 countries, representing another 1.2 billion people, are at high risk of political instability. That’s more than half the world.
And we are becoming a much thirstier world. Growing populations spur demand for more industries and farms, draining water resources more quickly than ever.
Environmental pollution and climate change are expected to exacerbate the problem as they alter rainfall patterns. And, unlike carbon reduction, there is no alternative, no substitute to promote.
The water politics as seen in Selangor is unique to the state. We don’t hear a similar case in other states.
There is no way the state government, helmed by Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, can wash its hands of the problem altogether and shift the blame to Putrajaya.
After all, the water concession is given and controlled by the state. The concessionaire is an associate company of the state via its subsidiary Kumpulan Darul Ehsan, thus the state has a strong influence on its affairs.
The biggest part of the problem is the prolonged delay in the completion of the state’s water restructuring exercise, where Selangor wants control over water companies.
The Federal Government and SPLASH, the concessionaire and supplier of treated water in Selangor, have long agreed to the deal that would have been a win-win for all.
Azmin, for some unexplained reasons, has refused to sign it.
Even the Selangor lawmakers are not happy. State Speaker and Subang Jaya assemblyperson Hannah Yeoh has publicly taken SPLASH to task for the current water woes.
SPLASH is the acronym for Syarikat Pengeluaran Air Sungai Selangor Sdn Bhd.
She said SPLASH had failed to provide regular updates on the status of repairs resulting in more disruption to the daily routine of households and operations of businesses. It had also failed to be prepared for all contingencies, she said.
Tens of thousands of households in the districts of Petaling, Klang, Shah Alam, Gombak, Hulu Selangor and Kuala Langat have not been having water supply since March 6. Even parts of Kuala Lumpur were affected.
Again, state leaders, such as Yeoh, seem to blame SPLASH, rather than taking full and direct responsibility for the fiasco.
Yeoh had once denied former menteri besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim’s motion to discuss the SPLASH takeover in the state assembly.
Khalid was spot on when he said yesterday that the Azmin administration was not serious about the takeover of SPLASH.
Khalid said Azmin had been focusing on how to pay more than RM2.7 billion to the company and not on how to resolve the state’s water woes.
“By all accounts, the Selangor government should have acquired SPLASH by now. This failure on their part has allowed SPLASH shareholders to reap in even more profits, which has emboldened them to this extent.
“A menteri besar should fight for the people, but for some, their movements may be somewhat limited as they are ‘too full’,” he said in a statement.
By all means, the Selangor government must conclude the takeover of SPLASH soon.
Since the rest of the water companies in Selangor have been acquired based on a similar valuation, SPLASH must be acquired likewise.
And cash-rich Selangor must be prepared to tap into its huge cash reserves to improve the state’s water infrastructure, including replacing old pipes.
Voters are increasingly less impressed with the state government’s track record when it comes to water management.
They want to see uninterrupted supply of clean and treated water, and are not bothered about the politics of it.
A Jalil Hamid feels in a digital world, the winner does not always take all. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org