QUICK TAKE: The ongoing water restructuring exercise in Selangor is a golden opportunity for the Pakatan Rakyat state government and Barisan Nasional federal administration to rise above partisan politics and prove to all that the people come first in their political struggle.
Pakatan should stop using the matter for political mileage while the BN should stop dragging its feet in reaching a solution and avoid being seen as punishing the Pakatan-held state for the people’s electoral decision to kick the federal ruling coalition out.
This is to ensure that a long-term solution to the state’s water woes, made worse by current weather conditions, can be achieved within the shortest possible time and to prevent such situations from arising in future.
The Star today (March 13) reported that water levels in Selangor’s dams are reaching critical levels, with its largest — the Sungai Selangor Dam — recording a mere 40.53% capacity as of 8am.
Quoting statistics from the Selangor Water Management Authority (LUAS) website, the report stated that the Sungai Selangor Dam which serves over 60% of the Klang Valley and Selangor’s 7.1 million people was at 40.99% capacity at the same time on March 12.
Five other dams in Selangor also recorded worryingly low water levels, namely: Batu (90.72%), Langat (61.53%), Semenyih (77.49%), Sg Tinggi (71.22%) and Tasik Subang (91.63%).
Coming back to the ongoing water restructuring exercise, a Pakatan committee set up to oversee the water restructuring exercise has welcomed the federal government’s decision to “compulsorily acquire” four water concessionaires in the state through invoking Clauses 114 and 191 of the Water Services and Industry Act 2006.
“However, before the rakyat in Selangor can celebrate, we await with bated breath the actual execution of the above clauses.
“In addition, we would like to remind the federal government that the compulsory acquisition must not be an excuse to make excessive compensation to these concessionaires,” the committee comprising Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli, Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua and PAS research centre director Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said in a statement today.
The concerns raised over “excessive compensation” to the four concessionaires can now be put to rest as Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim had on March 12 confirmed that the state, through Kumpulan Darul Ehsan Berhad (KDEB), will only be paying RM7.65 billion for the takeover after negotiations capped at RM9.65 billion had fallen through.
This is because Section 114 under Wasia states that the federal government would only be responsible to acquire the companies’ assets and not their losses.
Clause 117(5) of Wasia also prevents the companies from bringing the matter to court over any perceived losses in the takeover exercise.
The Pakatan committee, however, maintained that based on its own estimates, the value of compensation could be as low as RM6.3 billion but not exceeding RM7.6 billion as highlighted by Khalid.
“The BN federal government must not at any point compensate these concessionaires for ‘loss of future profits’ which is not provided for anywhere in the privatisation agreements,” they stressed.
Under the initial memorandum of understanding signed on Feb 26, Selangor will have full control over the operations of four water concessionaires — Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Bhd (Syabas), Puncak Niaga Sdn Bhd (PNSB), Konsortium Abbas Sdn Bhd and Syarikat Pengeluar Air Selangor Holdings Bhd (Splash) — and will place them under the purview of KDEB.
The state government, in return, would issue the necessary approvals to facilitate construction of the Langat 2 water treatment plant.
The water restructuring exercise, expected to be completed in three months, will be finalised through another agreement to be signed between the Selangor government and the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry.
Among the issues which would be addressed upon completion of the water restructuring exercise are a full implementation of the Selangor government’s free water policy, reducing loss from non-revenue water, and ensuring an adequate supply of treated water to meet expected rising demands.