Air Selangor versus Air Wilayah Persekutuan?
Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya are managed by Air Selangor, except for SPLASH – negotiation is ongoing. Historically, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya were part of Selangor and the piping network is entangled between these territories. The Water Services Industry Act 2006 (WSIA) allows consumers that are close to borders of states to choose water supply from the neighbouring state. What if many along the border choose Air Selangor? This will reduce the accounts that will be managed by Air FT.
Secondly, how much raw water resources will Air FT have to be selfsustaining? If this new company wants to buy raw water from Pahang or Negri Sembilan, they need to get the Selangor government’s approval to lay pipes in Selangor’s territory. There may be a suggestion to pump groundwater as another raw water resource but this may send the township sinking, as land subsidence is one of the negative impacts from large-scale groundwater extraction.
Similarly, Tasik Putrajaya also needs to be highlighted. During the 2014 water crisis, this lake was chosen as a potential water source. At that time, we warned a senior official in the National Water Services Commission (Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Air Negara, or SPAN) that such a move will cause a national disaster. This lake is a manmade lake and it does not have natural water recharge. Quick draw of water may cause buildings close to the lake to collapse and sink into the lake. The Putrajaya lake was designed to use water to cool the area and not as source of raw water. Now, where are they going to get the raw water from?
Thirdly, pollution occurring under Air Selangor’s watch may also occur under Air FT. We need to address the raw water pollution issue holistically and harsh punishment must be meted out against wrongdoers. Therefore, using the pollution issue as a reason to form a new entity is a lame duck reason. Awer has put forward a number of suggestions. Implementation of those suggestions can ensure Malaysia reaches near-zero water pollution incidents in the long term.
Last but not least, forming a new entity will need its own board of directors and new management to operate a smaller scale operation. This may cause higher per cubic metre cost being passed on to water tariff. Thus, why the fuss and rush to form a new Air FT? Solve the raw water pollution issue first. We hope mature thinking is applied when managing water issues to ensure domestic and business consumers are not put in limbo.
In addition to that, the Splash negotiation is reportedly above market value compared with what was proposed in the 2013 takeover offer. Section 114 of WSIA should have been imposed long ago when concession holders refuse to take offers that are fair in the Malaysian context. There should be no fear of bond holders as the liabilities related to these assets will be taken over under Pengurusan Aset Air Bhd (PAAB). We would like to remind that any additional cost that will be passed to PAAB will eventually end up to be paid by consumers via water tariff.
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.