Perak Menteri Besar Saarani Mohamad recently apologised to Penangites, saying the state could not share water with its northern neighbour.
According to him, Perak was unable to supply raw water from the Perak River to Penang as studies had shown that Perak did not even have enough for its own use. Penang, for its part, is willing to pay higher rates for raw water from Perak.
Earlier, the Kedah menteri besar talked about imposing a RM50m tariff per year on raw water and even joked he would dam up the Muda River, which supplies water to Penang, and divert the water elsewhere.
It increasingly seems like a case of ‘my state’ over ‘yours’. If states start thinking like this, what will happen to our country? This is a valid concern, as Malaysia has 13 states and three federal territories – each with its specific jurisdictions.
We are already engaged in verbal battles in the media over religious matters that seem to be in a conflict between the Federal Constitution and state administrations. Now this raw water issue adds to our confusion and pain.
Is there really a water shortage in Malaysia? That is mind-boggling for a tropical country close to the Equator, in a rainforest belt that is accustomed to frequent rain.
According to a UN relief agency’s climate risk profile for Malaysia, “An increase in rainfall is also projected and is expected to be larger in Sabah and Sarawak than in Peninsular Malaysia.”
Malaysia, it adds, is “particularly vulnerable to flooding, with this natural hazard contributing more damage than any other the country experiences. The frequency and extremity of flood events have increased in recent decades with projections showing they will continue to increase with continued global warming”.
So, is it really a case of less rainfall and changing patterns in rainfall?
Or is it a sheer failure in environment management and in the harnessing of national and inter-state resources?