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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        22  March 2011

Malaysia faces water crisis

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Not many would believe that there is an impending water shortage in Malaysia, especially if they are Kuala Lumpur folks who are often caught in traffic jams caused by downpours. But if climate change alters the favourable rainfall pattern, we will have to come to terms with water rationing or other drastic water conservation measures.

Currently, Malaysians use an average of 226 litres of water per person daily, which is way above our Southeast Asia neighbours. Singaporeans use 154 litres (and intend to lower it to 147 litres by 2020) while the Thais manage with 90 litres.

“A study showed that 70 percent of Malaysians use more than they should,’’ lamented Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin Fah Kui last week. More depressing news? Seventy percent of them do not intend to change their water usage habits, said the minister.

“This is a sad reflection on the wasteful nature of consumers who do not practise sustainable water consumption.

“If Malaysians follow the recommended water usage, they can save up to 28.2cu.m per household, or RM18.33 a month,” said Chin, who added that the “recommended daily limit” for Malaysians is 165 litres per person, which means water use has to be reduced by 37%.

Most people do not know how much water they are using as the water bill is only a small component of their monthly household expenses.

In fact, some household water bills are less than the fixed monthly sewerage service charge of RM8 billed by Indah Water Konsortium. And thanks to the move by the current Selangor Government to provide the first 20cu.m of water free to households, landed property owners can pretty much toss their water bills aside.

All of these beg the question: Why bother to save when water is such a low-value commodity here? “For most Malaysians, the value of water is something they hardly ever think about unless, of course, they happen to be amongst the tens of thousands affected by the water crisis in 1998.

This is mostly because water comes to us rather easily. All we have to do is turn on the tap. “Water is also dirt cheap. So cheap that nobody pays any attention to saving it in the same way we would save electricity. In fact, the average Malaysian family’s water bill is only about 10% of its electricity bill,’’ said Dr Chan Ngai Weng, a geography professor at Universiti Sains Malaysia who is president of Water Watch Penang.

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