Sunday, March 21, 2010

Why are Malaysia's taps running dry?

Sakina Mohamed in Bernama (Malaysia) has a thoughtful discussion of the country’s water supply: …Malaysians, on an average, pay only 70 sen for 1,000 litres of water, or one cubic metre. So the scenario may seem unthinkable for many of us, who think clean and treated water will be around in abundance forever. But the truth is, Malaysia is fast running out of sources for clean water.

…Why is clean water so hard to come by? "In Malaysia, the main reasons are pollution and poor governance of our water catchments areas," says Water and Energy Consumer Association Malaysia Secretary General, S. Piarapakaran.

And one of the first indicators this is happening is a higher water tariff. He said water catchments and areas surrounding them should be gazetted. But what has been happening is that state governments are giving the green light for plantation and timbering companies to use the land for profit. …This usually results in pollution of water catchments, high treatment costs and if the pollution is too bad, a permanent shutdown.

…Malaysia still has plentiful of water supply because of our forests. "Our forests are our water catchment areas. But if the authorities keep bowing to timber companies who wish to do "selective logging" activities, we may have a really big problem in our hands," said Piarapakaran. He said in Perak, many rainforests of the Titiwangsa Range are being destroyed.

…A cross-section of Peninsular Malaysia reveals how the range is supporting the lives of Malaysians. When it rains, water will flow down from the east and west coast, with the forests controlling the water it catches by and releasing it slowly to the entire peninsula, ensuring it with a constant supply of water.

… Many would be quick to blame the current water crisis to drought, floods and other effects of climate change. "But it's not just the climate change that is causing water shortage. We are abusing the system as well," said Piarapakaran. And the system is straight forward - if we disturb our forests, it impacts our water supply….

Cloud forest. Mount Kinabalu, on the Malaysian portion of Borneo. Shot by NepGrower, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic licenseWikimedia Commons,

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