New Straits Times, Sunday, March 22, 2018 @ 5:22pm

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Water Forum (FAM) has urged the Selangor government to work with the federal government to improve its water industry. FAM president Saral James said this is important, given that it affects consumers. “There are many shortfalls in the Selangor government’s water management system. They need to go back to the federal government and work together, not work alone. “It is only by working with others that you can see where your weaknesses are,” she said.

James said Selangor’s reported water reserve margin of between zero to five per cent is “definitely low”, given that other states in Malaysia have an average reserve of between 20 to 30 per cent, which she noted was a big gap. “Although the problems lie not only within the Selangor government, it is puzzling as to why these problems (Selangor’s water issues) keep cropping up. She said Selangor needs to undertake the migration of its water industry seriously.

“We are heading towards becoming a fully-developed country, we can no longer rely on old technology. Both the Selangor and federal governments need to work together to improve the current system. “This is a shared responsibility. The Selangor government should also take charge when it comes to matters concerning improving the state’s water infrastructure and management,” she said. James had earlier spoke at a press conference held in conjunction with World Water Day celebration, today.

At the event, she said urged for all water operators to improve on their management and planning of water supply for the sake of the consumers. “We want to emphasise that access to water as a basic need must be improved. Consumers pay for water so they have the right to get the best service,” she said. James said the best example of this was seen in the recent water crisis which plagued Selangor.

For almost a week, 2.5 million residents in the Klang Valley were left without water as maintenance works in the state’s water treatment plant were conducted. On March 6, an explosion occurred at the Sungai Selangor Phase 3 (SSP3) Water Treatment Plant, which left five people injured. The incident also meant that was initially scheduled to be a four-day delay, was extended to a week, leaving many consumers in the Klang Valley high and dry.

James said the incident has showed that more needs to be done in order to protect the rights of the public. She also noted that the association had received many complaints on water issues. She said the association’s experience with Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas) during the recent Selangor water crisis left a lot to be desired. “For example, in Selangor’s latest water crisis, we received complaints from households who said that even after receiving water supply, the pressure was still low.

“We made some calls on behalf of the residents, but failed to get satisfactory answers from Syabas. The customer service did not answer calls, we also could not get any schedules for the water tankers. “Syabas failed to communicate well with the public when the water cuts took place and measures were not taken properly. This means the management and planning of water operators across the country needs to be improved,” she said. James said FAM had on March 20 and 21 submitted a memorandum to the National Water Services Commission (SPAN), Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry, and water operators on their recommendations to improve the country’s water industry.

“In our memorandum, we proposed for all water operators to create a ‘consumer communication plan’ for better communication between consumers and the water suppliers. This will allow consumers to be well-informed so that they can take necessary action when water cuts happen,” she said. Also present at the press conference session was Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (Fomca) deputy president Mohd Yusof Abdul Rahman.