Speech by Chief Minister of Penang
WORLD WATER DAY 2017
23rd April 2017
DON’T ‘GAMBLE’ WITH WATER SUPPLY FOR 3 NORTHERN STATES
We welcome World Water Day 2017. In Penang, the State Government and PBAPP have always regarded water supply as an issue of primary concern. We are still the only Malaysian state to implement a “no rationing policy”, the success based on a 3-pronged approach:
1. Gazetting water catchment areas
A total of 62.9 sq. km of forestlands in Penang has been gazetted as water catchment areas. These lands are protected by law, so that they may ‘catch rainwater’ to fill Penang’s dams.
No logging or destructive land development is allowed in Penang’s water catchment areas. Not a single square inch of forest reserves have been touched! This measure is in line with a ‘Greener and Healthier Penang’, unlike some other states where hundreds of thousands of hectares of forests have been logged or cleared.
2. Consistently upgrading infrastructure
PBAPP has been consistently upgrading our water supply infrastructure to stay ahead of water demand. In 2016 alone, PBAPP invested a total of RM89.5 million in projects such as Package 12 of the Sungai Dua Water Treatment Plant, the Bukit Dumbar 2 Pumping Station, New Reservoirs in Jawi and additional water pipelines as well as the Federal Government's RM1.2 billion Mengkuang Dam Expansion Project.
3. Improving the capability of management
PBAPP has also been upgrading its performance and productivity based on the principles of Competency, Accountability and Transparency (CAT) to be an efficient, professional and corruption-free water supplier. Efficient water supply and water demand management is key together with management assuming full responsibility for any water rationing. This “heads will roll” policy has been effective in staving off water rationing.
Just 12 months ago, we fought hard to avoid a water shortage crisis in Penang during the Super El Niño phenomenon.
This brings us to another recent news report:
According to The Star on 14/4/2017, a new trail for timber lorries was found in the Ulu Muda Forest Reserve near Sik, and it is more than 15km long.
The report also states that a signboard at the base site showed that a permit had been issued by the Kedah Tengah district forestry officer. Another signboard stated that the licence holder is Perbadanan Menteri Besar Kedah.
According the latest statement by MADA Chairman Datuk Othman Aziz as published in Sinar Harian on 20/4/2017, logging in Ulu Muda Forest Reserve has reached a critical stage and water capacity level at the moment is left at only 50%. He also mentioned that because of the logging, water couldn't flow through the ground as its supposed to due to the lack of trees.
He further said that logging trails had been identified in Ulu Muda the nearest trail only 200m from the dam, meanwhile the farthest distance from the dam had been detected at 2.5km.
He also mentioned that uncontrolled illegal logging activities could bring massive damages to the dam as well as water catchment area.
In addition to that, he hopes relevant parties like the Forestry Department and Environmental Department will continue to monitor the activities and to inspect the logging activities in the area. He also mentioned that the Kedah state government ought to approach the Federal Government if they are faced with any obstacles from solving this issue.
Penang’s stand on logging in Ulu Muda water catchment area has been consistent and clear:
-Ban all logging in Ulu Muda.
-Gazette Ulu Muda as a water catchment area.
-Seek Federal compensation in lieu of the ‘forest premiums’ that Kedah has been receiving from logging companies
-Allocate a portion of the Federal funds to monitor and conserve Ulu Muda.
However, instead of seeking funding from the Federal Government to conserve Ulu Muda, Kedah continues to license logging in an area that it calls a “forest reserve.”
As such, Kedah is basically ‘gambling’ with water supply, not only for Kedah, but for Perlis and Penang as well.
What is at stake in this ‘gamble’?
-The lives and livelihoods of 4.05 million Malaysians in our 3 northern states.
-The business operations of thousands of companies that provide jobs and business opportunities in Perlis, Kedah and Penang.
-The combined national GDP contributions of Perlis, Kedah and Penang, which was estimated to be about RM105 billion in 2014.
It is imperative to stop Kedah from continuing to ‘gamble’ with the water supply of three northern states. If we run out of raw water, there will be a catastrophic water crisis in North Malaysia.
Meanwhile, according to The Star report, a new logging trail has been found in Ulu Muda. According to MADA web postings, the level of the Muda Dam was 60.3% on 1st January 2017 and has dropped to 34.5% on 17th April 2017.
The Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water, or KeTTHA, is in-charge of national affairs regarding water supply. The National Water Services Commission, or SPAN, was created to regulate water supply services in Malaysia.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, or NRE, is empowered to regulate raw water resources, forest management and environmental conservation.
The Penang State Government calls on the Federal Government to step in and stop logging in Ulu Muda now.