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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Fact File: The Selangor water crisis

Tarani Palani and Stephanie Sta Maria, fz.com

There seems to be no end to the water problem in Selangor.

THE latest water disruption due to breakdown of the Wangsa Maju water pump in late December has sparked a fresh round of finger pointing between Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) and the Selangor state government over the state's long-standing water issue.
 
The Selangor government once again questioned Syabas' capability to cater to the needs of over seven million people in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya. Syabas on the other hand argued that the state has blocked essential funding to improve its piping and other important maintenance work, hence crippling its efforts to provide quality service. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has pledged to solve the water problem if BN wins back the state in the coming general election. 
 
Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim announced on Jan 29 that the state government will take over all four water concessionaires – Puncak Niaga Sdn Bhd (PNSB), Syarikat Pengeluaran Air Sungai Selangor Holdings (Splash), Konsortium ABASS and Syabas – in 14 days. This will no doubt bring about another round of arguments on the matter. 
 
fz.com gives the low-down on the issue by retracing the stalemate and details of the relevant parties in the infrastrctural problem that has no resolve in sight yet. In the meantime, the people suffer while the bickering continues.
 

Year/DateEvent
2007
Jan 15
MTUC and other applicants file for judicial review after Energy, Water and Communications Ministry denies the request to release Syabas audit report and water concession agreement between Syabas and Selangor. 
2008 
Jan 19
Selangor writes to federal government to revoke water concession but receives no response.
May Selangor government freezes Syabas capital expenditure (capex).
2009
Jan 24
Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim announces plans to complete takeover of assets and operations of water companies. 
Feb 13Selangor offers RM5.7 billion to Syabas, Puncak Niaga, Splash and Abass, to acquire water assets and concessions.
Feb 18 Federal government - through SPAN - says it will directly negotiate with water concessionaires. 
Feb 20 All four water concessionaires reject Selangor's offer.
Feb 23 Selangor Water Review Panel urges federal government to respect state government's right and allow it to negotiate with water concessionaires. 
April 17 Coalition for Sustainable Water Management says projected water demand inflated to justify RM9 billion Pahang-Selangor raw water transfer project. 
June 
Selangor offers RM9.3 billion to Syabas to take over its operations. Splash and Abass accept offer, but Syabas and Puncak Niaga Sdn Bhd reject it.
Selangor prevents Syabas from raising tariffs by 37% as per concession agreement saying that Syabas had not fulfilled conditions for increase. 
October Konsortium Abass serves Syabas originating summons for RM63 million for payment of electricity costs and purchase of water invoices. 
Nov 19Splash sues Syabas for RM196 million in relation of supply of treated water. 
2010 
Feb 24
Syabas sends Selangor a letter of demand for RM339 million for refusing to allow a hike in water tariffs last year. 
April 6 Construction on Pahang-Selangor raw water transfer project begins and is scheduled for completion in May 2014.
July 12Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin says Selangor struggling to absorb cost of providing free water. Predicts water crisis in two years. 
July 15 Water and Energy Consumers Association of Malaysia says risk of water rationing in Selangor possible if impasse between federal and state governments unresolved.  
July 20 MB Khalid says there is enough water for KL and Selangor consumers until 2019. Says Pahang-Selangor raw water transfer project could have been pushed to 2016. 
July 23Syabas denies Khalid's statement, says current water supply can only last until 2014. Says cannot reduce non-revenue water further because of freeze on capex. 
2011
Jan 7
Selangor makes third bid for state water concessionaires at RM9 billion.
Jan 21Selangor writes to federal government to revoke water concession but receives no response. 
March 23Syabas asks Selangor to lift freeze on capex. 
June 22Selangor govt blames Syabas for 48-hour water disruption in Klang Valley affecting 1 million people.
2012 
July 15
Syabas asks SPAN to allow water-rationing programme. Claims reserves of treated water at 2%. The 'safe' level of treated water is 20%.
July 16 
Selangor denies water shortage. Blames Syabas for incompetency and invokes Clause 32 of concession agreement to take over Syabas operations. 
July 17Selangor exco member Ronnie Liu visits Selangor dams. Says all dams are at peak capacity and accuses Syabas of manufacturing water crisis. 
Syabas says there is shortfall in treated water, not raw water, because Selangor has prevented construction of Langat 2. 
July 18 Selangor announces water panel and reshuffle of Syabas top management. Syabas says it has continuously alerted Selangor to possible water crisis. 
July 19 A Special Cabinet Committee on Selangor Water Issue, chaired by Muhyiddin, is set up to discuss the water crisis. 
July 23 Committee rejects Selangor's proposed takeover of Syabas. Also says that tender process for the RM3.8b Langat 2 will proceed. 
July 25 Water Monitoring Committee finds that Syabas operating below actual capacity in providing enough treated water.
Sept 4Pengurusan Aset Air Bhd (PAAB) opens tenders for Langat 2 despite not receiving Selangor's approval. 
Oct 26Muhyiddin says Pahang-Selangor raw water transfer scheme may not fulfil objective because of delay in construction of Langat 2.
Dec 27Tenders for Langat 2 close.
2013
Jan 3 
Syabas says Selangor's delay in building additional pumping system in Wangsa Maju responsible for water supply disruption. 
Jan 15 Syabas says water disruption 95% restored after bypass works. 
Jan 15-22Water disruption hits Petaling, Sepang, Klang, Kuala Langat and Hulu Langat due to river pollution affecting Sungai Semenyih Water Treatment Plant.
Jan 19 Syabas says ready to be audited by Selangor government. 
Jan 29MB Khalid says state government will take over all four water concessionaires - Puncak Niaga Sdn Bhd (PNSB), Syarikat Pengeluaran Air Sungai Selangor Holdings (Splash), Konsortium ABASS and Syabas – in 14 days.
Jan 30Federal Court grants leave to Coalition Against Water Privatisation (CAWP) to argue for access to Syabas' water concession agreement dated Dec 15, 2004 when BN ruled Selangor.

Key issuesState govt saysSyabas says
Syabas’ distribution capacity
The 34 treatment plants in the state are capable of treating 4,807 million litres of water per day (MLD). The ongoing mitigation project will reportedly boost the plants’ capacity to 5,139 MLD – but Syabas is only capable of distributing 4,411 MLD.
 
Syabas is incompetent and frequently wastes much of the funds allocated to increase its capacity through the capex. The capex is allocated to Syabas when there is scheduled works. 
Its hands are tied as the state refuses to budge from the freeze on its capex. The capex is essential to improve its capacity such as replacing old pumps in order to treat more water to cater for the growing demand of water.
Reserve level of treated water
State govt officials posts photos of dams that are full to refute shortage of water claimed by Syabas. But none has the figure for the reserve level of treated water. 
 
Klang MP Charles Santiago, co-ordinator for Coalition Against Water Privatisation, says that it was not possible for the representatives to know the actual level as only Syabas can provide those numbers and there is no independent audit to verify those numbers. 
The reserve level of treated water was 2% in July 2012 and 1% in January 2013, way below the 'safe level' of 20%.
 
To address the acute shortage, Syabas proposes water-rationing in July 2012 but later cancelled the exercise, saying a more 'long-term' plan is better following takeover bids from the state government.
 More to come – Is there a real need for RM3.9b Langat 2?

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