Posted by: ulumuda | August 11, 2008

Water payments by Penang would be a help(NST-15 July 08)

ASSOC PROF DR MAKETAB MOHAMED, Institute of Environmental and Water Resource ManagementUniversiti Teknologi Malaysia

KEDAH Menteri Besar Azizan Abdul Razak has threatened to log the upper catchment of the Sungai Muda and Sungai Kedah watersheds unless the Federal Government pays the state administration RM100 million annually. It is a case of cutting off the nose to spite the face.

Cutting the trees within the watershed of Sungai Muda will not only affect the water supply for the people of Penang but also for the people of Kedah. Moreover, the Muda Agriculture Development Authority, which ensures the success of double-cropping rice, would be directly affected.

The logging of the forests within Pedu, Muda and Ahning upper catchments is supposed to give Kedah RM16 billion. That’s a lot of money, but for how long? Perhaps this is a good time for Kedah to demand payment for the supply of raw water to Penang.

The Penang government, especially during the administration of Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, had resisted numerous calls from several past Barisan Nasional menteris besar of Kedah to pay for the raw water from Sungai Muda, which accounts for 80 per cent of the state’s water supply.

Penang has the cheapest water tariff in the country at 22 sen for the first 20 cubic metres and 42 sen for the next 20 cubic metres, compared with Selangor where the first 20 cubic metres costs 57 sen and the next 20 cubic metres is at RM1.03, while in Johor, we are paying 38 sen for the first 15 cubic metres and RM1.31 for the next 15 cubic metres.

The water consumption in Penang was 262 million cubic metres last year. Therefore, if the Penang government pays Kedah for 80 per cent of the water consumed in the state at the rate of 20 sen per cubic metre of raw water, it would generate revenue of about RM42 million annually. Well, it is not RM100 million, but at least there will be no destruction of the precious forests.

The estimated water treatment cost would be about 15 sen per cubic metre. So Penangites will have to pay at least 40 sen for the first 20 cubic metres, compared with what we pay in Johor.

Penang’s main excuse for not paying for the raw water from Sungai Muda is that it is drawing it from the Penang side of the river. It has to be noted that 90 per cent of the catchment area is in Kedah and the state could also divert or dam the river flow, leaving Penang high and dry.

It does not matter who rules Kedah or Penang as the natural resources of Kedah belong to the people. Therefore, in a natural resource-poor state such as Kedah, the payment for water by Penang would really help. For that matter, even Perlis should pay for the raw water from the Ahning reservoir.

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