Consumerist: Stupid Politicians, An Ineffective Commission And Water Wars?

Dato Jacob George

Wat-er confusion! The Selangor government is confusing the people over water issues in the state to suit its political agenda, and at the expense of consumers and the economy, a prominent consumer activist charged today.

Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam (Cassa) president Jacob George said, based on feedback he had received, most people in Selangor were confused over who was right and wrong.

Amidst this confusion, he said the state government had also injected, as an after-thought, a new dimension to the water issue — that water tariffs would increase if the Federal Government went ahead with building the Langat 2 water treatment plant.

George also lamented that a number of excos in the Selangor government were formerly non-governmental organisation (NGO) activists who had been looking at things negatively, no matter how well-intentioned the federal government plans were, to improve conditions in the country.

“I have been involved in NGO work for over 37 years. I could see their game-plan (over water issues), their strategies and that’s why they are bringing up irrelevant matters just to block what the federal government is trying to do,” he told Bernama in an interview.

In addition, George claimed the state government was also bringing in issues between it and Puncak Niaga Holdings Bhd into the picture, whereas they should be resolved in a different platform.

He said this unnecessary time-wasting should have been spent on resolving the impending water crisis in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

“So, why is the state government doing all these? Don’t mix these up and place it in one basket. This is not right. This is for our future, not just for the people of Selangor but for our neighbours (in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya), as well, because it (a water crisis) would have serious implications,” he added.

On the Langat 2 treatment plant which the state government was opposed to, the Cassa president said, all studies by experts showed the project had to be implemented without further delay due to a serious shortfall in treated water production, as the existing 34 plants in Selangor were operating at maximum capacity.

Here again, he said, the state government confused consumers by stating that the reservoirs were full of water, and that there was no crisis even in the future, although the argument was about adequate supply of treated water.

S’gor snubbed Cassa

What the federal government was concerned about, he noted, was with long-term planning addressing an impending water crisis, given the rapid population growth and the needs of industries.

“The plans are for 10, 15 or 20 years ahead, and when you talk about water, there’s definitely going to be problems. It is a global issue now, and every country is facing it, coupled with weather, environmental and pollution problems setting in,” he said.

George said projects like the Langat 2 plant could not be implemented overnight and further delays fueled by politicking, could push the cost of the project higher by as much as 70 per cent.

In the first place, he said, there was no need to politicise the issue as it was a human rights issue, and in facing an issue such as consumer rights, all sides must remain level-headed and focus on the core issue.

George revealed that Cassa had offered to mediate in the federal-state conflict over the issue but the Selangor Government had snubbed the offer, although the federal government gave positive response.

Span’s silence

“We have sent many letters to them (Selangor government), giving them the feedback from consumers and they didn’t respond even once. So, we know that they don’t want Cassa to intervene but that’s their choice.

“We accept it but don’t say that we don’t know the ground feeling. We have gone to the ground, talking to various groups of society and everyone agrees that a water crisis is just round the corner,” he observed.

He also took to task the National Water Services Commission (Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Air Negara or Span), for its relatively muted silence over water issues in Selangor, and this added to the confusion, as well.

“Cassa is very disappointed with the stand taken by Span and public perception of Span is rather negative, as if it doesn’t exist. Many times, we have invited them to debates on water issues, they didn’t attend.

“If they continue to be disinterested in playing a role, then it defeats the purpose of setting up Span.

“Span, with all its powers, should be in the forefront in trying to resolve such issues and the confusion arising from them. So far, they have failed to do this,” claimed George.


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