Exactly a year ago, the Sungai Semenyih water treatment plant was contaminated by ammonia and caused major disruption to almost 20,000 households in Selangor, and it was also dubbed as the prelude to one of the worst water crises in the history of Selangor.
The culprit of the pollution was found but no one knows what happened later. The incident ended with pledges and commitments from the government, saying that they will take stern action on polluters and will come out with a holistic plan to deal with the water crisis.
At the beginning of year 2015, we have been told that there will be water rationing this year as the water storage levels at all dams are satisfactory. However, we got another reality slap when another major water disruption is going to affect 458,350 households due to the closure of the Semenyih water treatment plant as a result of contamination in the Sungai Semenyih on the Feb 15, 2015.
It is indeed frustrating when most of the households, especially those who are celebrating Chinese New Year, as they have to
deal with the same situation like last year all over again - water disruption during Chinese New Year.
According to the Compendium of Environment Statistics Malaysia 2013, the major sources of river pollution include improper discharge from sewerage treatment plants, agro-based industries, livestock farming, land clearing activities and domestic sewage.
Has there been any system installed to detect the pollution kilometres away before it reaches the water treatment plants? Why are our water treatment plants not equipped with a more advanced water treatment technology and system, knowing that Sungai Semenyih is the ‘hotspot’ prone to contamination? We already have the regulation to deal with this situation but where is the enforcement?
When the water supply is going to resume? Do we have sufficient water tankers to distribute water supply to all the affected areas? Is there any information on the schedule of water tankers being disseminated to the affected areas? All these unanswered questions might lead to us wondering that the government agencies might be sleeping throughout the year and have done nothing to mitigate the situation from recurring.
Access to continuous and clean water supply is the basic human rights for the realisation of all other human rights as gazetted by the United Nations back in 2010. Our neighbouring country, which has no water resources to begin with, has now became the international water hub and as a role model of water management excellence to the world. And by 2050, they will be self-sufficient in terms of water supply.
While we are still chanting our aspiration of becoming a high income and developed nation by 2020, the dire water situation here has made us the laughing stock of the world.
By the way, did I mention that the storage level in the Sungai Selangor dam is dropping due to the hot weather? The level has dropped more than 2 percent in just four days, the biggest drop since December 2014.
FOON WENG LIAN is secretary-general, Water and Energy Consumer Association of Malaysia (Wecam).