PETALING JAYA (July 23): The Selangor government has announced that it may hold a referendum on the state's water issue, just as news emerged that Putrajaya has rejected its proposal to take over the operations of Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas).
"We are prepared if necessary to hold a referendum of the people where the rakyat can directly vote, and have a say whether to either accept or reject the intentions of the state government to take over Syabas," said state executive councillor Dr Xavier Jayakumar on Monday.
He said the Selangor government was very serious about its role in the water management of the state.
"We are committed to the facts that the non-revenue water (NRW) must be reduced to below 20% and that water tariffs must be fair and affordable. The state will be able to keep the cost within a 12% increase for consumers," he said in a statement issued after visiting the Sungai Semenyih water treatment plant.
The Selangor government had mooted the proposal of a takeover on July 16 after accusing Syabas of being incapable of supplying water to the people.
This followed a proposal by Syabas on July 14 for water rationing in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya due to what it claimed was a water shortage at water treatment plants.
But both proposals were blocked on Monday after the Special Cabinet Committee on the Selangor Water Issue (SCC), chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, found no basis for water rationing, and rejected the proposed takeover of Syabas pending a final decision by the Attorney-General.
Dr Xavier, the Sri Andalas assemblyman, said the SCC's decision showed that the threat of a water crisis was "wholly manufactured" by Syabas.
On the Sungai Semenyih water treatment plant, he said it was currently producing 650 million litres per day (MLD) despite its maximum design output of 545 MLD.
The state government-controlled Sungai Semenyih plant is run by Konsortium Abass Sdn Bhd (Abass). Only four of the 33 water treatment plants in Selangor are under the state government's control.
However, Dr Xavier said two other water treatment plants (Sungai Selangor Plants 1 and 3) are running below their maximum design output due to insufficient infrastructure to channel the additional treated water out of both plants.
"The Selangor government has requested RM225 million from the Ministry of Finance to carry out water mitigation projects but this request is still pending approval," he said.
"If the federal government doesn't approve these funds, the Selangor government is prepared to spend its own funds to fulfil the water mitigation projects. The projects will increase output of treated water by more than 200 MLD."
Dr Xavier added that the Selangor government is also considering spending an extra RM200 million to RM300 million to upgrade the water treatment technology at the plants.
He also called on Syabas to allow the four professionals appointed by the state executive council last week to monitor all the water treatment plants in the state.
The four-man team comprises Kumpulan Darul Ehsan Bhd (KDEB) chief executive Suhaimi Kamaruzaman, Abass director Abas Abdullah, Kumpulan Perangsang Selangor general manager of water management Karim Endut, and Perangsang Selangor planning, strategy and investment chief Kevin Lee.
"It would be only fair to allow our state representatives to monitor the figures of water demand and supply for themselves," Dr Xavier said.
"Right now, we have no access to the Syabas-controlled water treatment plants, and have to rely on their figures and statistics."
Last Friday, Klang MP Charles Santiago said the water issue was essentially about the right to information as Syabas held a monopoly over the information of water produced and supplied.