Left high and dry by high water charges

Left high and dry by high water charges
The water level at Dam Selangor, located in Kuala Kubu Baru, is lower than its usual 220m due to the prolonged dry spell.

MALAYSIA - Manufacturers in Selangor, Malaysia's most industrialised state, are warning that they may be forced to move out their operations because of "exorbitant" rates for water as a result of rationing triggered by a prolonged dry spell.

Many say they have had to scramble and pay extra for water to keep their operations running.

One of those hit by the prolonged water crisis, which has restricted supply to every alternate day, is top glove-maker Supermax Corporation. It exports medical gloves to more than 140 countries and produces 11 per cent of the world's supply.

Supermax group managing director Stanley Thai said one of its six manufacturing plants in Selangor has been badly affected by water rationing.

The firm now has to buy water at "exorbitant" rates from the state utility company to keep the plant running or risk failing to meet overseas orders.

Supermax is also forking out a huge sum to build water storage facilities, including harvesting rainwater to ensure supply. He said the water rationing was bad for business with the cost of production spiking abruptly.

Datuk Seri Thai was especially disappointed because he thought the water rationing was also the result of mismanagement by the authorities for the past two decades.

"We are all sick and tired of seeing a continuous political tussle between the state and federal governments on this issue," he told The Straits Times via e-mail. "It is ultimately the country's economic loss due to this long outstanding issue."

Both governments have been tussling for control of water assets such as dams, reservoirs, treatment plants and distribution pipes in Selangor since the opposition Pakatan Rakyat swept into office in the state in 2008.

Other businessmen like Mr Ding Hong Sing, 52, who owns a frozen food processing factory in Selangor, have warned that if water rationing persisted, they may have to consider moving their factories elsewhere.

"We are worried that this is becoming an annual affair," he said.

Indeed, frustrated business associations have complained to the federal government.

These include the Federation of Manufacturers Malaysia (FMM) Selangor, which has 1,150 member companies in the state.

FMM Selangor chairman Soh Thian Lai said its members have complained of the high costs of buying water.

For instance, a beverage company which requires 120 tankers a day has to pay RM150,000 (S$58,000) a day for water.

Delivery of water is also slow as there is a long queue at Selangor water distributor Syabas' filling station currently, he said.

"While FMM appreciates there must be rationing of water in the current situation, it has called for the Prime Minister's urgent attention on the matter and requesting that the authorities do their utmost to ensure sufficient continual supply to industries, including waiver of the Syabas testing/ supervision fee," Datuk Soh told The Straits Times via e-mail recently.

The Syabas spokesman said it is looking into the matter.

Small and Medium Industries Association of Malaysia president Teh Kee Sin said the revenues of its members in Selangor have dropped by an average of 30 per cent, due to water rationing.

"It is ridiculous for us to have to find alternative plans to get water ourselves," he said. "Besides, these are all short- term plans."

yyennie@sph.com.sg

This article was published on April 19 in The Straits Times.

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