Parched KL to seed clouds

KUALA LUMPUR - A water shortage caused by dry weather that could last until April has Malaysians in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur in such dire straits that the government will try cloud seeding this week to bring rain.

"The exercise will be carried out within this week as the water reserve levels in several dams are already at critical levels," said Deputy Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Mahdzir Khalid in a The Star Online report yesterday.

More than 80,000 households in the Greater Klang Valley - comprising southern Selangor and KL - have had little to no water since the end of last month.

Water levels in two major dams - Sungai Selangor and Klang Gates - are already critically low, Datuk Seri Mahdzir warned, at just 58 per cent and 57 per cent, respectively.

Making matters worse is ammonia pollution, which occurs naturally when organic matter such as human and animal waste decays, but is usually swept away by rainwater. This has caused two water treatment plants to be closed indefinitely.

Ammonia levels at Cheras Batu 11 are at 4.15 parts per million (ppm) and 5.1ppm at Bukit Tampoi, well above the acceptable level of less than 1.5ppm under Malaysian Health Ministry guidelines.

"We are losing 56 million litres per day," Mr Abdul Halem Mat Som, executive director of Selangor water distribution company Syabas, told The Straits Times yesterday by phone.

Emotions have been running high in the Selangor district of Balakong, at the edge of KL, where at least 15,000 homes have not had water for a week.

Syabas has deployed some 70 water trucks round the clock to send water to affected homes in KL, Kuala Langat and Hulu Langat districts for two weeks, but residents say they need more.

On Friday, angry residents at an apartment complex in Balakong, who said water had not been sent to their area, hijacked a water truck.

"Yes, this water shortage does bring a lot of tension because we don't know when it will be resolved," said Mr Amarudin Sarkan, a safety officer who lives in the area.

"Many people were using anything, even empty cooking-oil bottles, to collect water," said Balakong resident Ravi Karuppayah. Nine- to 45-litre plastic containers costing RM15 (S$6) to RM50 each were being snapped up everywhere, he said.

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