SPEECH BY CHIEF MINISTER OF PENANG
PENANG’S COMMEMORATION OF WORLD WATER DAY 2018
Yang Berhormat Tuan Yeoh Soon Hin
Penang State Excos
Yang Berhormat Tuan Wong Hon Wai
Bukit Bendera Member of Parliament
Yang Berhormat Nurul Izzah Anwar
Permatang Pauh Member of Parliament
Yang Berbahagia Dato’ Ir. Jaseni Maidinsa
CEO PBA Group of Companies
Prof. Dr. Chan Ngai Weng
President, Water Watch Penang
PBAHB & PBAPP Board of Directors
Penang State Heads of Department,
Heads of Divisions and Department, PBAPP Sdn Bhd
Dato Seri- Dato Seri, Dato’- Dato & Datin-Datin
Members of the Media
Ladies & Gentlemen
I am pleased to be here today with you to commemorate World Water Day 2018 in Penang. It is good that we allocate at least one day a year to focus on water and Penang.
In Penang, we are privileged to enjoy good water supply, often to the extent that we take it for granted. Accordingly, we should thank Perbadanan Bekalan Air Pulau Pinang Sdn Bhd, or PBAPP, for doing a good job as our water supplier. That said, we should acknowledge the fact that Penang is a state with a small geographical footprint. There are only so many raw water resources that we can tap, and we have optimised all the raw water resources within our borders.
Of all our raw water resources, the most important is Sungai Muda in Seberang Prai. More than 80% of the raw water that is abstracted in Penang comes from this river. In 2017, PBAPP abstracted an average of 872 million litres of raw water from Sungai Muda per day.
If you think about it, all that raw water has to come from somewhere; and that somewhere is Ulu Muda. As mentioned by Dato’ Ir. Jaseni, Ulu Muda refers to a wide expanse of rainforests in Kedah that also serves as the largest water catchment area in North Malaysia.
Anything bad that happens in Ulu Muda inevitably threatens water supply in Penang. Since 2008, PBAPP and the Penang State Government have been expressing concern about logging in Ulu Muda. Logging causes deforestation; and deforestation degrades Ulu Muda’s capability to serve as a water catchment area. Moreover, forest land clearing related to logging causes soil erosion and sedimentation; and this affects the quality of the river water in Ulu Muda and Sungai Muda. Logging is usually regarded as a forestry issue. However, we know that Ulu Muda is more than just a forest reserve; it is the most important water catchment area for Perlis, Kedah and Penang.
In this context, we stated that logging in Ulu Muda should be regarded as a water supply issue. We tried our best to convince the previous Kedah State Government and the previous Federal Government to put a stop to it.
However, nothing was done.
Despite numerous exposés by various newspapers and press statements from many NGOs, the previous Kedah State Government claimed that logging was properly managed by the Kedah Forestry Department. In short, they ignored us and continued to cut down trees.
Today, there is a Pakatan Harapan State Government in Kedah and a Pakatan Harapan Federal Government in Putrajaya. It is a good time to re-visit logging in Ulu Muda issue as a water supply issue that affects Perlis, Kedah and Penang. In fact, we should now present the issue to new administrations in Kedah and Putrajaya on a different level. Logging in Ulu Muda is a socioeconomic threat to 3 northern states.
Let us consider the facts and figures:
• There are about 4.09 million people living in Perlis, Kedah and Penang. Everyone needs water supply to support their daily lives and activities.
• Thousands of businesses operate in Perlis, Kedah and Penang, ranging from “teh tarik” stalls to multinational manufacturing operations. All these businesses rely on the availability of sufficient water on a daily basis.
• The projected combined GDP contributions of Perlis, Kedah and Penang was estimated to be RM115 billion in 2016. Sustainable water supply management is an essential requirement for GDP growth.
• Ulu Muda provides 96% of the raw water that is used for water supply in Kedah, including in Pulau Langkawi; 70% of the raw water that is used for water supply in Perlis; and more than 80% of the raw water that we use for water supply in Penang.
When logging affects Ulu Muda as a water catchment area for Perlis, Kedah and Penang, we will face the risk of a regional water crisis. If there is a regional water supply crisis:
• 4.09 million people will suffer from lack of water;
• Thousands of businesses will suffer losses; and
• The GDP contributions of 3 states will be compromised.
As such, logging in Ulu Muda is a socioeconomic threat. It threatens the well-being of our people, our businesses and the regional economy.
With these considerations in mind, the Penang State Government and PBAPP are committed towards the campaign to SAVE ULU MUDA for the benefit of Perlis, Kedah and Penang. We intend to reach out to Perlis and Kedah to seek a consensus on how we can work together to ban logging in Ulu Muda and protect it as a “Northern Region Water Catchment Area”. In seeking to completely ban logging in Ulu Muda, we must be fair and realistic. “No logging” means a potential loss of income to the Kedah State Government. If possible, we look forward to working with Kedah to request for Federal compensation in lieu of “forest premiums” for logging; as well as to ask for Federal assistance to gazette, manage and protect Ulu Muda as a regional water catchment area.
The Penang State Government will strive to resolve this issue at state-to-state level. We will also seek support from Members of Parliament, or MPs, to resolve this issue at the Federal-level. I hope that all our Penang MPs will support the mission to SAVE ULU MUDA. If we can get the support from the MPs in Kedah and Perlis, so much the better. In fact, we should strive to make our campaign a regional campaign that reflects a joint resolve to sustain good water supply in Perlis, Kedah and Penang. A united approach will strengthen our case when we raise this matter at Federal level.
In closing, I would like to congratulate PBAPP and Water Watch Penang for sharing and promoting the SAVE ULU MUDA message on World Water Day 2018. It is timely, and we need strong public support to get things done properly. As we step into the era of a “New Malaysia”, let us join hands in working for the benefit of Penang and the Northern Region of Malaysia. We must always remember that good water supply is a prerequisite for sustainable socioeconomic development.
Syabas and Thank You.