No wa­ter, no talk

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SUNBIZ -

THE prime min­is­ter has an­nounced the for­ma­tion of the Wa­ter Sup­ply Fund un­der Bud­get 2017 with an al­lo­ca­tion of RM500 mil­lion. Un­for­tu­nately, this is not pos­i­tive news as it shows the sever­ity of the wa­ter is­sue at na­tional level.

We as­pire to be a de­vel­oped na­tion by 2020 and wa­ter is part of our na­tional se­cu­rity. Short dis­rup­tions once or twice a month may be tol­er­a­ble but re­oc­cur­rence with higher fre­quency will start to cre­ate more is­sues and chal­lenges for our econ­omy.

When a pollution in­ci­dent takes place, the wa­ter treat­ment plant con­cerned will be shut down im­me­di­ately. This will cause the wa­ter re­serves in the bal­anc­ing reser­voir and service reser­voirs to de­plete in meet­ing the de­mand for treated wa­ter. A drop in pres­sure and wa­ter dis­rup­tions oc­cur after the re­serves run out. There will be losses in­curred by the man­u­fac­tur­ing and com­mer­cial sec­tors and do­mes­tic con­sumers, they will be put un­der stress.

The wa­ter treat­ment plant also in­curs losses due to shut­down and wa­ter sup­ply com­pany has to pre­pare emer­gency wa­ter sup­ply ser­vices. We must claim all th­ese losses through the wrong­doer(s) and why should the wa­ter tar­iff ab­sorb this cost?

At the mo­ment, the En­vi­ron­ment Qual­ity Act (EQA) al­lows the De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­ment (DoE) to re­cover the cost in­curred in clean-up of the pollution on top of the penalty. Losses to in­dus­trial, com­mer­cial and do­mes­tic con­sumers as well as the wa­ter com­pany can­not be claimed.

Awer would like to pro­pose a new clause to be added into the Wa­ter Ser­vices In­dus­try Act 2006 to al­low such losses to be claimed. The Na­tional Wa­ter Ser­vices Com­mis­sion (SPAN) should also de­velop sub­se­quent rules and pro­ce­dures to stan­dard­ise the claim process against the wrong­doer.

But, be­fore any claim is done, we need to iden­tify the cause of a pollution in­ci­dent and even­tu­ally catch the wrong­doer.

Let’s look at the pollution in­ci­dent that took place in Sg Se­menyih and Sg Se­man­tan. DoE came late to col­lect sam­ples and the blame game startd be­tween state and fed­eral gov­ern­ment agen­cies.

The le­gal re­quire­ment to pros­e­cute some­one un­der EQA re­quires DoE to take sam­ples. The de­part­ment’s en­force­ment arm must be en­hanced and there should be a team oper­at­ing round the clock.

So, if DoE misses the boat, can the wrong­doer go free? Can SPAN take sam­ples? Is SPAN em­pow­ered to take sam­ples? Is SPAN al­lowed to en­ter premises with or without a war­rant to col­lect ev­i­dence? Do not be sur­prised, SPAN has the power.

The Wa­ter Ser­vices In­dus­try Act 2006 (WSIA) is a very im­por­tant law that pro­tects the wa­ter ser­vices in­dus­try. SPAN is the tech­ni­cal, eco­nomic and service reg­u­la­tor. Those who pol­lute raw wa­ter can be pros­e­cuted un­der Sec­tion 121.

If death is the re­sult of the pol­lut­ing act, then death is the pun­ish­ment for the wrong­doer. There are other penal­ties in terms of jail terms as well as fi­nan­cial penalty.

Sec­tion 148 gives the power of in­ves­ti­ga­tion to SPAN to im­ple­ment WSIA, in­clud­ing Sec­tion 121.

In ad­di­tion to that, Sec­tion 149 al­lows SPAN of­fi­cers to en­ter with a war­rant and Sec­tion 150 is used to en­ter without a war­rant. In an act of pollution, SPAN can utilise Sec­tion 150 to en­ter premises. How­ever, SPAN also has to de­velop sub­sidiary leg­is­la­tion to en­sure the pros­e­cu­tion process is not flawed.

There­fore, since in many of the pollution in­ci­dents SPAN of­fi­cers can ar­rive faster (for a young en­tity with small work­force), we urge SPAN to utilise the le­gal pow­ers vested upon them to go after the wrong­doer.

Even if DoE (a larger out­fit with a huge staff force) ar­rive late, SPAN of­fi­cers still can col­lect sam­ples. At least, we can pros­e­cute the wrong­doer un­der WSIA and claim all the losses.

Maybe such com­pe­ti­tion will as­sist in bet­ter pro­tec­tion of our raw wa­ter re­sources.

This ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Piara­pakaran S, pres­i­dent of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Wa­ter and En­ergy Re­search Malaysia (Awer), a non­govern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tion in­volved in re­search and devel­op­ment in the fields of wa­ter, en­ergy and en­vi­ron­ment.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.