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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cheap water cause of crisis in Selangor, says minister


Chin said the government was forced to subsidise increased water usage. — File pic
PETALING JAYA, Jan 31 ― Cheap water is to blame for Selangor’s frequent and widespread water supply cuts that have affected hundreds of thousands of households and businesses, Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin Fah Kui said today.
The minister added that the ongoing crisis showed that it was vital for Putrajaya to restructure energy and water tariffs to ensure supply of the two utilities would not be further disrupted.
“The recent crisis in Selangor is an example of the bad consequences that have happened and caused hundreds of thousands of people to suffer.
“Water that is given cheaply has only caused wastage because people do not appreciate and use it too much,” Chin said at the 15th Malaysia Strategic Outlook Conference here today.
The minister said that when water was cheap, usage spiked and the government had to step in to subsidise the price, which meant public funds would not be used as efficiently.
“When water usage increases, the government is, at the same time, forced to raise subsidies.
“When these subsidies are added, public funds cannot be used effectively,” he said.The minister reiterated his previous argument that power and water rates needed to be revised and warned others against politicising the issue that he said was in the public’s interest.
Treated water supply in the country’s most developed state has become major campaign fodder in the run-up to Election 2013 after utility company Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (SYABAS) raised the alarm in 2011 of a possible crisis in the near future due to near-zero reserves at the state’s water treatment plants.
The Pakatan Rakyat (PR) pact had reportedly promised domestic consumers free water up to 20 cubic metres on a monthly basis after it took over Selangor government from the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition in Election 2008.
The PR state administration has also locked horns with the BN federal government and SYABAS, the sole supplier of treated water in the rich state as well as the two neighbouring federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, for past four years over the Klang Valley’s water crisis.
The blame game between the private firm and the Selangor government under Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim has gone on for months and took a new turn earlier this month when the mentri besar mooted a media drive relating their version of events plus a weekly update of the water problem, alleging that the latest disruption was due to SYABAS’s poor upkeep leading to faulty pumps in urban Wangsa Maju and Pudu Hulu Baru.
SYABAS, in retaliation, placed full-page advertisements in several major newspapers to rebut Selangor’s claims.
The protracted battle for control of water resources Selangor has thrown a spotlight on how much money is at stake in the strategic industry and is potentially another example of Mahathir-era privatisation gone wrong.
It could also tilt the balance in the battle for both Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, depending on who voters ultimately blame for cuts to their water supply.
PR parties rule Selangor and control 10 out of 11 parliamentary seats in the Federal Territory.

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