Kota Marudu Member of Parliament

Greater federal control sought to fix water woes

KUALA LUMPUR, May 18 ― The federal government is seeking ways to play a greater role in water management following widespread problems connected with the recent El Nino phenomenon.

Energy, Green Technology, and Water Minister Datuk Seri Maximus Ongkili told Parliament that while state governments are responsible for water management, the federal authorities need to step in.

“Water is a state issue. That is the bottom line. But recent events have shown the need for more federal involvement,” he said.

“There are grey areas in state and federal jurisdiction on water issues and these will be worked out in the coming National Water Framework.”

Ongkili said state governments need to compromise on their control regarding water rights to ensure national water security and that the federal government would reciprocate in terms of allocations.

“Funds need to be put aside for the management of catchment areas. We cannot just leave it up to the state,” he said.

“Also, we need to think long term … 25 to 50 years from now in devising a national water grid to ensure water from states, which are facing flooding or over supply can be channelled to states which are facing shortages.”

The fallout from El Nino has seen environmentalists and others calling for greater federal control of water, arguing it is a national issue rather than a state issue.

The dry spell had seen widespread crop failures in Kedah, Penang and Perlis, and fish breeders in Pahang facing heavy losses due to record temperatures and dropping water levels.

The government had put in place several emergency measures including draining rivers to irrigate agricultural areas, and pumping ground water to make for the shortfall.

Responding to a question by Datuk Hasbullah Osman (BN-Gerik) on why the current dam network seemed inadequate, Ongkili said the flooding and shortages seemed contradictory problems but they could be resolved with greater federal control.

“We face shortages in prolonged dry spells like we had recently. Just last year, we had floods. Water is available, it is just a matter of management,” he said.

He said the government was considering more dams and increasing the capacity of existing ones.

“Besides catchment areas, feeder rivers and tributaries need to be protected as the loss or destruction of these areas are causing water levels at major rivers to drastically drop,” he said.

In an immediate response,  the Selangor government said it welcomed the move by the federal government to play a greater role in water management, reports Kevin Wong.

State infrastructure and public facilities committee chairman Mohd Zaidy Abdul Talib said greater power by the federal government in water management would be beneficial.

“They are more than welcome as more funds will be allocated to managing and improving water catchment areas. Despite that, we have been able to manage the water situation during the El Nino phenomenon,” he said.

“The state has invested a lot into cloud seeding operations, done twice a day, to ensure there is rain in the catchment area.”

Zaidy said the Selangor government had implemented the Hybrid off River Augmentation System (Horas) to sustain water at dams in the state.

He said Horas, which cost about RM700 million, would release raw water in the rivers that would flow to treatment plants during the dry season. 

“Horas has helped manage the water levels of state dams to stay about 60 per cent during the heatwave,” he said.


Source - Malay Mail