On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Same dry excuses year after year

The point here is that the authorities seem to be ill
prepared each time we face a water shortage. It's almost an annual event;
surely by now we would have learned from the past.

Lack of information from the authorities only builds up anger, especially among
consumers who want to find out the duration of water cuts and how supply would
be restored.

Not being able to cook and wash is acceptable to most of us but it is a
different thing when there is not a drop of water to clean ourselves or to
flush the toilets. For those living in high-rise flats, where the water
pressure is low, their predicament is unimaginable.

And for residents in Semenyih, who live not far from the dam, it's a case of so
near yet so far. They must have found the water cuts unacceptable.

With low water pressure, the supply to most homes was murky, which did not help
to pacify the unhappy city folk.

But Malaysia is a lucky country. Barely a week of inconvenience, and we are
told that water rationing will be put off for the time being as a result of
heavy rain since Tuesday.

With water in the dams returning to normal levels, it's time we stop depending
on divine intervention to solve our problem. The Meteorological Services
Department should continue with cloud seeding to induce rain (last week, over
21 flights were conducted). To be effective, cloud seeding is usually done when
there are clouds over dams to induce rainfall at catchment areas.

Other pro-active measures had been taken, including reopening 41 wells that
were dug in remote areas in Selangor during the water crisis in 1998. A
filtration plant that was closed in 1998 would be re-commissioned.

All these measures were announced following public outcry last week. It's
better late than never but surely these steps should have been taken

But it's no good merely to blame the authorities. For too long, we have taken
water supply for granted. In many European countries, their water is ''hard''
and impossible to drink from the tap.

Even boiling the water is not sufficient and many prefer drinking beer and
bottled drink for health purposes. In Malaysia, especially in Penang, the
quality of water is still good.

All this is only possible if our rivers are clean because they form the main
source of our water supply. So every step must be taken to ensure our rivers
remain clean.

Surveys have shown that only 27% of the 160 rivers in Malaysia are considered
clean. Not many Malaysians will find this shocking because for too long
factories, in particular, have treated the rivers as their dumping

All the laws drawn up and passed by Parliament will be meaningless if we do not
punish those who treat our rivers with disdain.

Water is an essential commodity. A year-long campaign to educate the public on
saving water should be started.

At the same time, we expect the authorities to tell us what steps have been
taken before the dry season comes again.

If our politicians want to keep boasting about how advanced we have become,
then it's time they stop giving us the same old story whenever the dry season
sets in.