Saturday April 2, 2011
Experts: Water issue needs thrashing out
By THEAN LEE CHENG
IBM, Siemens highlight waste and water management problems.
As the population in Kuala Lumpur grows, there will inevitably be higher demand for water and the increase in the number of people will also lead to more waste being generated.
The need for improved sustainability has been highlighted by IBM and Siemens in their study on Kuala Lumpur's sustainability. There is currently a water impasse between the Selangor government and Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas) . Syabas supplies water to Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Putrajaya. The Government will intervene so that consumers will not be burdened by water issues, says Commissioner of the National Water Services Commission (Span) Roger Tan. Span, approved by Parliament in June 2006, came into force on Feb 1, 2007, to promote efficient water services management.
“Before 2005, the state government has authority over water issues. After some amendments to the law, the state government has juridiction only over raw water, which is untreated water while water companies focus on water treatment and supply,” Tan says.
The second issue is wastage. It was highlighted about a couple of weeks ago that Malaysians use an average of 226 litres of water per person daily, which is way above Singaporeans (154 litres) and the Thais (90 litres). Low tariff has led to high consumption.
The third issue is non revenue water caused by pipe leakages and tampered meters. About 20% of water supplied in Kuala Lumpur is lost either through the leaking pipes or tampered meters, Tan says.
There is also a prediction that there will be a major water shortage issue by 2014, which will affect the people in the city. There is an urgent need to replace the leaking pipes to resolve the issue of water wastage.
“We are working to solve these various issues so consumers do not become victims. At the same time, there is a need for them to conserve water,” he says.
Tan, a board member of the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Corporation, says the Government is also seriously looking into the issue of waste management.
Waste management will be reviewed and improved as new laws are passed. Last week, technicalities delayed the enforcement of a law which will require consumers to separate their thrash.
There are also various issues in waste management.
“There are all sorts of contractors who are collecting different types of waste. The issue is the disposal and much of this rubbish end up in open dump sites which pollute the environment,” he says.
Waste management can be lucrative. Recently, newly-listed Cypark Resources Bhd announced that it has grown from a small capitalised stock into a mid-sized one in less than five months. Group chief executive officer Daud Ahmad says investors are hopeful it will win more government contracts to manage non-sanitary landfills.
Cypark is managing 16 non-sanitary landfills, of which one it has converted into a renewable energy park, capable of generating electricity for Tenaga Nasional Bhd.
Says Daud: “Illegal open dump sites or unsanitary landfills are problems that go back 15 to 20 years. In a village, you can dig a pit. In Kuala Lumpur, you have to find a very big pit but today that is no longer sustainable.”
Daud says contractors should find a landfill far away from the population, rivers, unused mining ponds or the sea.
“We were unaware that this will pollute the air and our water resources. Today, there are guidelines and waste management is taken more seriously,” says Daud.
He says urbanites with a higher disposable income generate more waste of about 1kg per person daily compared with 600gm by a villager.
According to Daud and Tan, the Government is looking seriously into the issue of waste management.
Water resources is in many ways a commodity. The Dutch had fought a long and successful battle against water.
They have been building dikes to reclaim land and prevent floods and erosion for more than 200 years.
This has resulted in a wealth of expertise and experience in managing the flow, distribution and protection of its water resources.
The Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency area director Linnie Mackenzie who is based in Singapore says “there is no one sustainable waste management solution.
There are still conflicting views as to the most practical, environmentally beneficial and effective means of achieving sustainable waste management.
“The overall policy aims to achieve sustainable waste management. In Europe, the overall aim is to reduce waste, to make best use of what is produced and to choose waste management practices that minimise the risks of immediate and future environmental pollution and harm to human health.”
“In the Klang Valley, an estimated 80 tonnes of waste are dumoed in the river system every day. River water quality and pollution control need to be addressed urgently since 98 % of the total water used originates from rivers.”
Mackenzie says there are several significant water quality problems that affect South-East Asia.
Of these, contamination of drinking-water sources by pathogenic (disease-causing) microorganisms remains the most important.
Some countries in the South-East Asia are affected by chemical contaminants such as arsenic and fluoride in ground water, as well as contamination from industries and the agriculture sector.