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M'sian firms aim to flush out water woes

Publication Date : 27-05-2014


A Japanese semiconductor company in Selangor has just spent 50,000 ringgit (US$15,573) to install additional water tanks at the back of the factory, to ensure it can continue to operate if another water shortage occurs later this year as widely predicted.

Renesas Semiconductor - which makes semiconductors for Toyota, Honda and Mitsubishi, among others - is taking no chances as weather experts expect the El Nino dry weather phenomenon to hit the region starting in July.

It now has water tanks with a total of 1.388 million litres capacity - enough to fill half an Olympic-size swimming pool - adding to the one million litres of water that Renesas uses daily.

"Even if our deliveries were to just slow down, our customers will lose confidence. Simple as that," Zulkifly Abdul Rahman, the company's spokesman told The Straits Times.

The company is among the businesses and individuals who are preparing for the next spell of dry weather, with bitter lessons learnt from the February to April water-rationing crisis that hit the vast districts called Greater Kuala Lumpur - encompassing parts of Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya - as rivers shrank and dam levels dropped sharply.

Greater KL is Malaysia's most industrialised area and its most populous with some six million people.

In Petaling Jaya, the popular Kayu Nasi Kandar restaurant chain has just installed large plastic water tanks at all its 10 outlets at a total cost of 15,000 ringgit to prepare for the dry weather, after struggling to ensure sufficient supply during the recent water rationing, says owner Burhan Mohamed.

"We are fully prepared because in this business if your cleanliness is suspect, you're finished," he told The Straits Times, adding that a restaurant relied heavily on word of mouth to stay competitive.

The severity of the coming El Nino, which creates warm and dry spells that could last for months, is being debated. But not its arrival in Malaysia in the second half of the year.

"Selangor and a few other states might have a problem if this year is going to be a strong El Nino year," the Malaysian Meteorological Department said in an e-mail response to questions.

It said there is no data to back up claims in the media that this year will be the worst El Nino.

"Based on the past events, its lifecycle can last between six and 18 months. If this year is going to be the El Nino year, its impact can be felt only at the end of this year or early next year," the department said.

The worries about another round of water shortage in Greater KL is compounded by the unresolved water issue involving the Najib administration and the Selangor government which is controlled by the Pakatan Rakyat alliance. The Greater KL region consumes 4.465 million cubic m of water a day. The figure is set to rise to 5.371 million cubic m by 2030.

Talks between the federal government and Selangor to allow Malaysia's richest state to take over all the joint water assets for Greater KL - rivers, dams, treatment plants, distribution pipes - have taken several years, with no real resolution.

A 4 billion ringgit project to pipe in water from a Pahang river via a 45km underground tunnel is nearly complete. But construction of a 3.8 billion ringgit water treatment plant in Selangor to treat the Pahang water for use in homes and industries has been delayed several times due to the protracted talks.

Shamsuddin Bardan, head of the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF), which groups 4,800 companies, says at least two-thirds of its members have been hurt by the February to April water rationing, and many incurred at least 100,000 ringgit in extra costs per month.

Renesas, for instance, spent at least 74,000 ringgit per month from January to March to rent eight 48,000-litre water tankers daily.

Shamsuddin says the MEF has urged the government to grant tax incentives to companies that bought water tanks, harvested rainwater and drilled for groundwater. "The government needs to be less bureaucratic and give more incentives for creative solutions," he said.

*US$1 = 3.21 ringgit


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