S'pore water deal to be reviewed

JOHOR BARU - For the first time in 53 years, the raw water agreement between Johor and its neighbour across the Causeway, Singapore, is set to undergo a review.

The Attorney-General's Chambers has given the Johor government the green light to reassess the rate charged for the raw water it supplies to Singapore, which has been in place since 1961.

Following the move, Johor is expected to raise the rate sometime this year.

It will also embark on a "zero water dependency" programme so that it would no longer need to purchase treated water from Singapore in the future.

Although the rate has yet to be announced, it is believed that the state will stick to the rate proposed during the tenure of former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, which was 60 sen per 1,000 gallons of raw water.

Currently, under the terms of the Malaysia-Singapore Agreement in 1961 and 1962, Singapore's Public Utilities Board (PUB) purchases raw water from Johor at 3 sen per 1,000 gallons (4,546.09 litres) and sells the treated water at 50 sen per 1,000 gallons to Johor.

Johor sells 250 million litres of raw water to Singapore daily, and buys two per cent of the total back from them in the form of treated water, equivalent to five million litres daily.

State Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad said the state executive council had discussed and raised the matter with the Federal Government last August.

Since then, the Attorney-General's Chambers has been studying the legal aspects of the raw water agreement inked between the two countries more than five decades ago.

"Early last month, we received a favourable reply from the A-G's Chambers, with regards to the legal aspects of the revised rates," he said.

"The A-G's Chambers met a Johor legal advisory team in Kuala Lumpur in early January and told them that we have the right to review the rate. With the green light, it is just a matter of time before we come up with the new rate."

Hasni said the state government was anticipating that when the rate of raw water rate is increased to 60 sen per 1,000 gallons, Singapore would also hike the rate of treated water sold to Johor.

In view of this, he said Johor would launch a "zero water dependency" programme by June this year. Under the programme, the state government will lay more pipes and improve the capacity of water treatment plants.

"We hope to accomplish the programme within a year, which is by June next year. Once we have accomplished the programme, Johor will be self-sufficient and does not have to buy treated water from Singapore," said Hasni.

He said raising the price of raw water was long overdue and Malaysia had been doing a social service by selling raw water to Singapore at a low rate for too many years.

He said the new rate will reflect the actual price of raw water.