On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

No raincheck on water supply

After scooping pails of water from the pool, they called
up newspaper offices to register their protest. Another city dweller resorted
to bathing at the health club in Rennaisance Hotel because there was no water
in his house for over a week. The less fortunate in many parts of the city had
to turn to fire hydrants and nearby streams.

All these Klang Valley residents
have been left high and dry over the past few weeks. In parts of Wangsamaju,
Cheras and Datuk Kramat, water supply has been disrupted for almost two weeks.

For a capital of a country that is seeking developed nation status, the water
problem has reached crisis level. We shouldn't be scooping water from drains
and streams, yet that is precisely what is happening.

The alternative is to
wait for the mobile water tanks. Malaysians cannot be blamed for not putting their
faith in the authorities. It is sheer incompetence when water tankers arrive in
our neighbourhoods without a proper schedule or a fair system of distribution.
These tankers even turn up at midnight, according to some complaints received
by the press.

Those of us who have had to put up with this situation have found
that water supply was cut without warning. No point trying to contact the
Selangor Waterworks Department. The line is usually engaged or calls go
unanswered;  only silence on the other

According to the Meteorological Services Department, rain has not been
falling in catchment areas. As a result, the volume of water at Langat Dam,
Klang Gates and Tasik Subang Dam has remained low. One possible way out is, of
course, to conduct cloud-seeding over the three dams. Before that can be done,
there must be enough cumulus clouds or rain clouds. Cloud-seeding is also
expensive and not always successful.

This water crisis should make all us sit
up and take stock of the situation. When hills are chopped down, trees
disappear. Even if it rains, water trickles down into streams before reaching
the dam. That is why catchment areas are important. We don't need experts to
tell us that catchment areas must be away from places where the possibility of
pollution is real.

The siting of factories and industries near our rivers is
also cause for concern. Malaysians have a right to question how approvals were
given in the first place. Is it ignorance, poor planning or plain corruption?
The so-called love for the environment by the influential and powerful should
go beyond planting trees in the presence of the media. Going green, for
example, does not mean opening more golf courses. In the Klang Valley, there
are more than 50 of them.

 We need to protect our main range, which is the
source of 90% of Peninsula Malaysia's rivers, to ensure continuous supply of
fresh water for our future. Two years ago, the Malaysian Water Association
predicted that the country would face a major water crisis by 2010 if the Main
Range is not protected. We should not treat our rivers like sewers because they
provide 97% of our raw water supply.

How many of us remember the Love Our
Rivers campaign? After the initial publicity, we have gone back to our filthy
ways. It's time for all states to sit down and come out with a workable
national water policy. Malaysians will not accept any watered-down explanations
from bureaucrats over their failure to provide decent water supply. The thirst
for a good water supply plan has never been greater.