Today is DAY SIX that taps have run dry for about 360,000 account holders or 1.6 million residents in the most developed state of Selangor. DAP supporters have gone quiet in residents’ WhatsApp groups while those who will be celebrating Deepavali are screaming for vengeance. Some are already asking “Mana Hannah Yeoh?” while Azmin Ali who, under his tutelage Selangor has seen the most of water disruptions, has reneged on the usual promise of announcing the biggest exposé on those he blamed this current water crisis on.
The MP for Kelana Jaya, Wong Chen, has since appeared on WhatsApp groups trying to appease voters. The following is his message:
Message from MP Wong Chen this morning 27 Oct.
Good morning from Parliament. We have been sitting the last few days up to 9.30 pm every night. The budget session is the most important session of the year but this year the government slashed some 8 days of sitting and as such we are forced to go beyond our 5.30 pm sitting by four extra hours a day to 9.30 pm every day.
This morning I want to talk about the water crisis affecting 1 million residents in Selangor. I have been following closely the water crisis in Selangor, affecting a large part of my constituents in Subang Jaya. YB Hannah Yeoh has been updating regularly, she is on the ground distributing water and engaging residents. Residents are going into their 5th day without water. And we had a water crisis barely a month before.
In Parliament, I bumped into Minister Wan Junaidi and also separately the Deputy Minister Hamim on several occassions. I keep asking for their quicker action. They keep saying that Selangor must also do their bit. I have also relayed some of my ideas to YB Zuraida to pass on to the MB.
Wan Junaidi do not believe the current pollution crisis to be an act of deliberate political sabotage. Deputy Minister Hamim, who is an engineer and someone I enjoyed working with on the TPPA (when he was Deputy Minister of MITI), will not speculate but says that the problem is not new. The federal government has resources but water is a state matter.
I am of the view that with the economy slowing, more and more companies will try to cut costs by dumping pollution straight into the river.
Enforcement in Malaysia has always been a challenge. A widely held view is the enforcement officers are either stretched thin, overworked or at the other end of the spectrum, just plain corrupt being paid by polluters to turn a blind eye.
If enforcement officers are not effective then we have to bring in the accountants.
The obvious solution is to track historical records of industrial waste output of each factory and counter check with their disposal costs. If a factory is found to have slashed spending substantially on disposal of industrial waste in the last year, then we can assume that they are engaging in illegal dumping. A major discrepency in the accounts should be a basis for a full investigation and raid by enforcement officers.
The state should also set up a benchmark of waste output for each industry to red flag any unusual data volatility. Setting up patrol units along the rivers is not going to help as much as sending in the accountants.
Bottomline is this. If the economy deteriorates, we can expect more and more water cuts stemming from increased pollution activity.
Irate residents will not listen to excuses or causes. Understandably, they just want water and they want this crisis to not repeat. As such Selangor must dramatically improve its emergency water delivery system. We need more water tanks and we need delivery to be on schedule and to be regular.
We need to also beef up security monitoring at our rivers. We need night time road blocks to monitor all suspicious trucking activities. More importantly is we need new people to lead such enforcement. A fresh start with new officers.
We need to bring in the accountants. We need all factories in Selangor to disclose their waste inventory. And we need to catch the culprits, severely punish them to end this cycle of water cuts.
Lastly, I beg the residents to also empathise with the authorities. You will not find a harder working ADUN in Malaysia than YB Hannah Yeoh. If you see her on your streets at midnight distributing water, give her a pat on the back.
Wong Chen may be the sanest of the PKR lot probably due to being an idealist more than a politician. But he is saying nothing new, not a lot, and has nothing much to offer.
Firstly, it is obvious that as an MP he is not aware that all matters pertaining to land and water belongs to the respective states. Had he known this he would not have approached Wan Junaidi or his deputy Hamim.
As advised by industry players as early as 2011, the Selangor State government should gazette water catchment areas and implement the Langat2 Water Treatment Plant project. The State government did not do the first and delayed the second suggestion until it was too late.
Secondly, the economy is not slowing. Slowing down means that there will be negative growth. Wong Chen is probably not aware that even the World Bank says that the Malaysian economy is growing at a slower rate in 2016 but will pick up in 2017 and 2018.
Even in the 1990s when the economy was vibrant and our growth rate exceeded eight percent, business owners were dumping industrial scheduled wastes into rivers. It has nothing to do with our economy. It has all to do with our mentality and screw-all attitude.
Enforcement is lacking, no doubt, but stretched thin is the more than likely case. They can’t all be corrupted just as not all bungalows without swimming pools are cheap. So we just do not have the numbers needed to police based on a personnel to area ratio. And it doesn’t help when motormouth Tony Pua wants to trim down the civil service if he comes into power!
Even tracking of industrial waste output needs the manpower to do it. You can’t just sit in the office, tap on some keys and expect the numbers on the screen to tally with what is being produced in the real world.
Security monitoring of our rivers would go back to two things: manpower and gazetting water catchment areas! Why is there a need to repeat this over and over again? Everything points back to those two!
Hannah Yeoh the hardest working ADUN in Malaysia? I have seen better-working ones even from the DAP back in the 1970s. Distributing bottled water can be sub-contracted out to Bangladeshi workers. A hardworking ADUN would be screaming in the Dewan for more manpower to enforce gazetted water catchment areas. Not seek political mileage and benefitting from the misery of others!