SPEECH BY CHIEF MINISTER OF PENANG
AT THE OFFICIAL LAUNCHING OF BUKIT DUMBAR PUMPING STATION 2
18 SEPTEMBER 2016
I am pleased to officiate the launching of PBAPP’s new RM11.9 million Bukit Dumbar Pumping Station 2. As mentioned by Dato’ Ir. Jaseni, this pumping station, with a designed capacity of 270 million litres per day, or MLD, will improve water supply services for the benefit of 315,000 water consumers on the island.
In the past 6 months, PBAPP has also commissioned the following 3 water supply infrastructure projects:
-The RM54.9 million Package 12 of the Sungai Dua Water Treatment Plant, encompassing a new water treatment module, an environment-friendly sludge processing unit and a new water testing laboratory
-Two new reinforced concrete reservoirs costing RM16.7 million in Jawi, Seberang Prai Selatan
-A 900mm pipeline from Sungai Keluang, along Tun Dr. Awang, to the Penang International Airport roundabout costing RM6.0 million
In August 2016, PBAPP completed critical pipe upgrading works at the Sungai Dua Water Treatment Plant, and pipe connection works in the Bayan Lepas area. In other words, in 2016, PBAPP has successfully commissioned water supply projects with a total value of RM89.5 million, for the benefit of Penang.
On behalf of the Penang State Government, I would commend PBAPP for “walking the talk”, by realising projects to avoid rationing in Penang at all costs.
Water supply sufficiency and security is a basic requirement for continuing progress and prosperity. Our “no water rationing or heads will roll” policy has ensured that the management of PBAPP practices the best water supply management in the country. Alternative sources of water supply are continuously sought.
Unfortunately, Penang has the “worst” water demand management in Malaysia, due to our low domestic tariffs. Our average domestic water tariff for the first 35,000 litres per month is RM0.32, as compared to RM1.31 in Johor and RM4.60 (which is equivalent to Singapore Dollar 1.52) in Singapore. Our low domestic water tariffs, for the first 35,000 litres per month, have caused Penang to record the highest per capita domestic consumption in Malaysia in 2015, at 291 litres/capita/day (l/c/d) as compared to the national average of 209 l/c/d. We need to reduce our per capita domestic consumption if we are to be green and not run out of water.
We have ensured that there was no water rationing in Penang, even during prolonged dry seasons. In 2013, the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water, recognised PBAPP as the “Water Operator of the Year” and handed us the “Efficiency Award’.
In 2015, our international award-winning Sungai Dua Water Treatment Plant became the biggest facility of its kind in Malaysia, in terms of water treatment capacity, with the launching of Package 12.
However, please note that the Penang State Government and PBAPP do not have control over Sungai Muda and other new raw water resources. We are a state with a small geographical footprint. We have been dependent on raw water from only one river, Sungai Muda, for the past 43 years.
This is the main reason why Penang signed agreements with the Federal Government to migrate to the National Water Services Restructuring Initiative, or NWSRI, in June 2011. In doing so:
-We accepted the responsibility of settling RM655.2 million in State debts which were incurred, not by us, but by the previous State Government.
-We agreed to hand over Penang’s key water assets to Pengurusan Aset Air Berhad, or PAAB, for 45 years, and to pay leasing charges to PAAB on an annual basis until we fully settle the past State loans.
-PBAPP accepted the conditions of becoming a licensed water operator in accordance to the Water Services Industry Act.
-We agreed to pay an annual licensing fee to the Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Air Negara, or SPAN.
-In return for losing these assets, the Federal Government agreed to implement the Mengkuang Dam Expansion Project, or MDEP, with a Federal grant of RM1.2 billion.
-The Federal Government also agreed to finance and undertake all future raw water resource projects for the benefit of Penang.
Penang has been honouring its commitments to the NWSRI agreements. In the period 2012 to 2015, we have paid a total of RM67.3 million in leasing fees to PAAB and in licensing fees to SPAN.
So, has the Federal Government been keeping to its part of the bargain? Let us look at the facts and figures. The MDEP has been delayed. It was scheduled for completion in July this year. The completion date has now been postponed to mid-2017.
Moreover, the Federal Government is now proposing to reduce the size of the key pipeline that connects the MDEP to the Sungai Dua Canal. This modified design will reduce the delivery of water from the dam to the canal by 40%, from 1000MLD to 600MLD.
The State Government strongly objects to this reduction as a breach of promise made earlier. It will also increase the time needed to fill up the expanded Mengkuang Dam to 2 years. What would happen if a drought happens during this period? It is projected that the MDEP may only be handed over in May 2019.
As far as Sungai Muda is concerned:
-On 16th May 2016, The Star published an exposé on widespread logging in the Ulu Muda forest area, including in catchments which catch water for Sungai Muda.
-We immediately requested for Kedah to stop logging in Ulu Muda, and to gazette the catchments. We proposed for the Federal Government to compensate Kedah for the protection and preservation of these catchments. Yet Barisan Nasional (BN) and some NGOs do not make any noise but noisily condemn us for replanting 16 trees for a road widening project in Jalan Masjid Negeri when we have planted 271,000 new trees and not reduced our permanent forest reserves.
-To date, we do not know if any action has been taken.
As for new raw water resource development:
-Since 2008, Penang has asked for the implementation of the Sungai Perak Raw Water Transfer Scheme, or SPRWTS, that will help to meet the raw water meets of Perak and Penang until Year 2050.
-We have reminded the Federal Government of the SPRWTS for 8 years now. We have also reminded the Federal Government of its obligation to undertake raw water resource projects for the benefit of Penang, in accordance to our NWSRI agreements.
Therefore, the time has come for the Federal Government to wake up and address the raw water needs of 1.7 million Malaysians and more than 300 multinational corporations in Penang today. Please understand that “no water rationing at all costs in Penang” is not just for Penang’s benefit. It is also for the benefit of the country as a whole.
Instead of delaying and wasting more time, the Federal Government should immediately prioritise the following 6 initiatives for the benefit of Perlis, Kedah, Penang and North Perak:
One: Get Kedah to stop logging in Ulu Muda and to gazette the Ulu Muda Catchments to protect Sungai Muda as a raw water resource for South Kedah and Penang.
Two: Compensate Kedah with Federal funds to preserve the Ulu Muda Catchments.
Three: Allocate Federal funding for the SPRWTS for the benefit of North Perak and Penang, in accordance to the 2011 NWSRI agreements signed with Penang.
Four: Complete the SPRWTS in 5 to 7 years, to meet North Perak and Penang’s raw water demand until Year 2050.
Five: Play a more proactive and active role in protecting, managing and optimising all raw water resources in the Northern Region for the mutual benefit of Perlis, Kedah, Penang and Northern Perak, in line with the concept of the Northern Region Economic Corridor (NCER).
Six: Prepare a water crisis management plan for the Northern Region, leveraging on all regional raw water resources, to minimise the risks, threats and negative impact of future prolonged dry seasons.
Finally, coming back to today’s event. Congratulations to PBAPP for commissioning the Bukit Dumbar Pumping Station 2, and a total of RM89.5 million in water supply projects in 2016. While waiting for the Federal Government to fulfill its obligations, we must keep up the good work to avoid rationing in Penang at all costs.