More states in Malaysia may soon ration water

Residents collect water from a tank truck at Hulu Langat district outside Kuala Lumpur.

KUALA LUMPUR - With the prolonged dry weather in Malaysia, other states may soon follow Selangor's lead in rationing water.

After Selangor announced its largest water-rationing exercise in 16 years, Negeri Sembilan said it is poised to begin water rationing in parts of Tampin and Rembau if the water levels at four of its six dams - already at critical levels - continue to fall.

Negeri Sembilan could also be forced to buy water from Johor for residents who live in the southern part of the state.

According to The Star Online, Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar Mohamad Hasan said on Tuesday: "The water level at the (Gemencheh) dam has continued to fall. It can only sustain supply for the next 25 days if there is no rain."

The dry spell since mid-January has hit many urban areas, where 70 per cent of Malaysians live.

About 60,000 households have been intermittently without water since last month, and urban small-business owners have lost money. Selangor, which contributes more than 20 per cent of the country's gross domestic product, has been hardest hit.

At least 100,000 people have experienced dry taps in Selangor on and off since Jan 28, said water distribution company Syabas.

The dry weather is expected to last until the middle of next month, according to the Malaysian Meteorological Department. Cloud seeding, where chemicals are sprinkled on clouds from airplanes to induce rain, is not an option because there are few clouds.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has not ruled out declaring a national emergency, including nationwide water rationing and a ban on non-essential activities that consume excessive water.

Syabas and the Selangor state government have blamed each other for the shortage. Last week, Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim ordered the company to start scheduled water deliveries to affected areas.

On Tuesday, the water company defended itself, saying the company had applied to Malaysia's National Water Services Commission to carry out scheduled water rationing.

While this year's water shortage is especially bad, utilities experts said the now-yearly water shortages, especially in Selangor, reflect poor planning.

Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia president S. Piarapakaran said: "The dry weather is causing lack of raw water and an increase in demand. A prolonged dry season will always cause such a situation. This situation needs long-term solutions."

In affected areas like Cheras and Balakong on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, convenience stores have run out of water containers and pails.

In Johor, Batu Pahat and Pontian have been put on alert for water rationing, with the dams in the state just 5 per cent short of reaching their critical levels.

lestkong@sph.com.sg

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