LETTER| The areas under the Sungai Semenyih plant encompassing USJ, Puchong, Seri Kembangan and Serdang have been severely affected by complete water disruption since Saturday morning. For many residents there this is certainly not the first time. In fact, this is the fifth or sixth time. The suffering that water disruption causes to people has totally been underestimated by policymakers.Activities such as cooking, washing, bathing and drinking are disrupted and when these cuts are unscheduled, the effect is extremely severe especially for big families.

This is made worse when it occurs at or near festive seasons, disrupting celebrations.Additionally, as families are unable to cook at home and seek to purchase food outside, often these shops are closed. There have even been reports that medical procedures were postponed or the patients were directed to go to another hospital because of the unavailability of water. People suffer when there are water cuts. People really suffer.Three days later, the problem has still not been resolved. It was reported that the chief minister informed on Sunday night that the water supply will resume at 11pm, but it proved to be untrue.

Another report said the chief minister informed that the Selangor government expects affected areas to recover by late Sunday night, but again not true.
Residents in some areas were informed that the water truck would arrive at their housing area on Sunday night. It never did. People had waited the whole night with pails outside their homes to collect water. The water truck never arrived; not only had they lost sleep, they never got the water that would have helped in a small way to overcome their suffering.As of this morning, the situation remains the same.

What is really shocking is the statement by the chief minister that “water supply disruptions this year were not unusual”. “Our record is four or five water supply disruptions. Maybe this year there was wider media coverage, but there have not been that many cuts,” he said. It appears he is okay with four or five water cuts per year. It only seems worse due to “media coverage”.This reflects how far the gap is between suffering consumers and policymakers. They consider four to five cuts are actually okay and “not unusual”; while each water disruption brings tremendous suffering to the rakyat.With this kind of crass attitude, Selangor consumers cannot expect the water situation to improve next year.

The National Water Service Commission's (Span) vision is to provide, “a reliable and affordable water service for all”. After every crises, it’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is to make a statement that “strict action must be taken against the perpetrators”. Then it goes to sleep until the next crises. Span, wake up – prevent the next crises.The Sungai Semenyih water treatment plant.
The way water is being managed in Malaysia, with consumers frequently throughout the year carrying buckets to collect water and waiting outside their homes for the water truck, it appears that we are becoming a low-income developing nation rather than moving towards a so-called developed nation status.In their obsession with all the so-called highly visible projects like buying toll companies and building man-made islands, the policymakers appear to neglect the basic needs of the rakyat.

Fomca sincerely hopes that the suffering of the rakyat will cause politicians and policymakers to focus on the needs and aspirations of the rakyat; at least starting with water.

The writer is the chief executive officer of the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (FOMCA).