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Selangor water crisis may undo investments: analysts

SHAH ALAM, Feb 17 (Bernama) -- While Selangor, the country's premier industrialised state, continues to attract both foreign and domestic investments, imminent water shortages may undo its pace of development in the future, according to analysts.

If this happens, it is nothing short of an act of self-betrayal, they said, because a water crisis is predicted to happen by next year and is primarily due to the Selangor Government's blockage of the Langat 2 plant that the federal government has committed to building to treat raw water from Pahang, under a multi-billion ringgit, inter-state pipeline project.

This is also compounded by the state government's denial of approval for the much-needed capital expenditure to main water distributor, Syabas, to upgrade facilities.

Selangor's chairman of the Permanent State Committee for Investments, Industrialisation and Trade Teresa Kok said, 211 manufacturing projects for the state were approved in the January-October period last year, with total investments of RM10.5 billion.

This makes it the envy of other states, which have plenty of water but are always short of investors.

"These investment commitments will be problematic because of the federal-state impasse over water supply issues. The Selangor Government is dragging its feet over the matter although a water crisis is looming," said Dr Ahmad Zaharuddin Sani Ahmad Sabri, an academician and water expert.

He alleged that the Selangor Government had been spewing out obstructionist and misleading rhetorics to derail efforts to avert the crisis by the federal government, including saying that there was enough water up to 2019, while the actual situation showed that raw water reserves level at low levels, while the 34 existing treatment plants were working at full capacity, with some operating above capacity, especially those in southern Selangor where majority of the industrial businesses were located.

Top Glove Corporation, the Selangor-based world's leading maker of disposal gloves, for example, had wanted to put up a new plant to increase production as global demand for rubber gloves increased ut had to put the project on hold as Syabas is unable to provide the additional water required to run the nitrate plant.

The water crisis faced by some 500,000 people in the Ampang and Pandan housing areas in Kuala Lumpur last month is an early signal that Selangor's existing water infrastructure could no longer meet the demand of the rapidly growing population caused by migration of people from all over the country, driven by job and business opportunities in the industrial and commercial hub.

Kok could have taken a more holistic approach if she had also mentioned where all the water was going to come from, for the 211 new industries that she said, Selangor would be hosting.

The water situation in Selangor also has tremendous bearing on the fate of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya where Syabas is the sole supply distributor and the three regions are the country's most developed and with the highest population density.

Umno's State Assemblyman for Permatang, Sulaiman Abdul Razak, one of the most vocal critics of Selangor's water politics, said with a population explosion, new industries and housing areas coming up, the situation was akin to the global food production shortages.

"One day, we might be forced to import water, just like Singapore. Is this what we want?," he asked.

Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin, in an interview with Bernama last week, again appealed to the Selangor Government to cooperate with the federal government and end its stubborn attitude that was detrimental to the water security in the country's most important regions.

He was responding to Selangor Menteri Besar (MB) Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim's latest "threat" to take over Syabas and three other concessionaires to which the state government had, according to the MB, issued a two-week deadline due to expire on Feb 18.

To keep the taps running in order to meet the ever rising water demand, Chin said the Langat 2 project would have to go ahead. Open tenders for the RM1.2 billion plant closed about two months ago, and evaluation of tenders is ongoing with the successful bidder to be announced soon.

"We will proceed with the award and of course, having awarded it, it will be implemented," he said, as analysts expect the federal government to stoically defend its position if the state government were to take the matter to court.

"And, with the general election round the corner, the ball is now also with the people of Selangor to decide if they want uninterrupted water supply, which is the federal government's uncompromising stand, or if they want, in the words of the energy, green technology and water minister, to "make Malaysia a laughing stock of the world, a country that is so well developed that it is today, and suddenly does not have water."


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