KUALA LUMPUR and PENANG: Just across the main bridge that links Penang island with Peninsula Malaysia, Yussif goes to the well near his house. He starts pumping, increasing his speed until he sits slowly on the dry ground, looking up at the sky.
For him and his family, there is no water. Across Malaysia, worries of a looming water crisis are being heightened as villages are reporting more and more outages during the holy month of Ramadan.
“We just want a few liters a day so we can cook and drink,” Yussif tells Bikyamasr.com. For him, a 44-year-old handyman, husband and father of four, going without water has been a more frequent occurrence. “Sometimes we go weeks with full water and then all of a sudden, without warning, it goes dry and we don’t know why,” he adds. Water shortages in many villages in the area have been hit for days without water and this has caused disruptions in the lives of the residents. Yussif now stores water in large barrels just in case, saying that as he and his family are fasting, “it is more important now than ever to make sure we have something to drink and cook with.”
Elsewhere in Malaysia, the water crisis is continuing to affect daily lives. In central Malaysia, some 40,000 residents have been seeing cuts on a regular basis, and much of the blame has been leveled at Syabas, the country’s water maintenance contractor.
The government has repeatedly said the issue of water shortages in the central part of Malaysia’s Peninsula are non-existent and should not be affected July saw the emergence of political groups into the fray over water shortages in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.
Selangor Barisan Nasional (BN) lashed out at the Selangor state government for not being transparent in its action plan to solve the water crisis in the state.
Selangor BN coordinator Mohd Zin Mohamed told reporters that the Selangor government was still “flip flopping and deliberately prolonging the issue by using Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas) as a target” to “confuse the people” on the water issue.
“We are still waiting until today for the state government’s plan to tackle the water crisis in Selangor. In fact, Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim had openly admitted there was no specific plan to solve the issue,” he told reporters after handing over food for breaking fast to the public at the Shah Alam Commuter In late July, Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said that water rationing was not needed at the present moment in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.
His statement comes on the heels of more reports of water shortages in the central part of the country, which residents say is affecting their ability to provide adequate Ramadan meals for their families. Yassin said there were only several areas in the city and Selangor where there have been complaints of supply disruptions.
For these areas, which included Pandan Indah in Kuala Lumpur and Kapar in Klang, Syabas has been ordered to send water supply, Muhyiddin said in a statement late last month.
“In the current situation, rationing is not yet needed,” he said at a press conference after chairing the first meeting of the special Cabinet committee on Selangor’s water problems.
According to Green Technology, Energy and Water Minister Peter Chin, the government will look to address new projects to help boost access to water in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.
“The committee is headed by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, and includes Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Noh Omar, Datuk Seri Idris Jala, Federal Territories Minister Datuk Raja Nong Chik, and myself,” he told reporters on Thursday.
Speaking from the sidelines of the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers Conference 2012, Chin said that the committee was agreed upon during Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting.
He said that the committee would tackle the issues in a “holistic manner.” “We are studying all the issues of these two matters, all issues regarding the water supply in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya,” he added in reference to Syabas’ proposal to ration water and the Selangor state government’s request to take over Syabas operations.
The move also comes as residents fear increased water shortages during the holy month of Ramadan.
Syabas Chief Executive Officer Ruslan Hassan told reporters earlier this week that the water situation is expected to become worse with the approaching fasting month of Ramadan.
Malaysians use more water and remain at home more during the month of fasting from sunrise to sunset, which puts more pressure on resources across the country. “Water consumption is indeed higher every Ramadan and with the current condition where demand has exceeded supply, we fear the worst. “It is best for the Selangor government and all the parties involved to come to a solution,” said Ruslan after visiting residents of Taman Sungai Besi Indah, who have been experiencing on and off water cuts since April this year.
The government has said it is attempting to boost resources, but until now, has been unable to provide residents with an increase in water to meet their needs.
Ruslan said Syabas is powerless to conduct water rationing exercise, as it falls under the jurisdiction of the National Water Services Commission (SPAN).
The Commission said that it was working toward meeting all demands across the country and was pushing forward new infrastructure projects in order to do so, but did not tell Bikyamasr.com when proposed projects would be completed.
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