Water rationing takes toll on health, environment

Water rationing has created a spike in the use of polystyrene plates and cups.. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Water rationing has created a spike in the use of polystyrene plates and cups.. — Picture by Choo Choy May

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PETALING JAYA, April 13 — Residents of Klang Valley may whine and moan about the lack of water at home due to the rationing exercises but its impact goes beyond just their daily discomfort.

The ongoing water rationing was brought on by an unusually long dry season, which is said to be caused by climate change.

In coping with it, people could just be making things worse for the environment and themselves. On top of the list is a spike in the use of polystyrene plates and cups to save water.

Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister, Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit, said polystyrene affects people’s health as well as the environment.

He said polystyrene packaging should not be used in the first place, and encouraged businesses to switch to plates and cutleries made from oil palm trunk fibres as they were more eco-friendly and a biodegradable alternative.

He pointed out that the environmental ministry had conducted road shows to inform the public about the hazards of polystyrene, but the public does not seem to care.

“The public take food packaging for granted, which primarily affects their health and eventually, the environment,” he said.

Global Environment Centre River Care coordinator, Kalithasan Kailasam, said although it was good that businesses have thought of a short-term solution to deal with the water rationing, they need to look at the bigger picture.

He advised businesses to better plan their water storage to reduce the usage of disposable cutleries.

“Biodegradable cutleries are a better solution, but it is not the best as it still becomes waste,” he said.

Kalithasan also felt that one of the issues people have to deal with is not having enough clean water.

“People need to understand that rivers with high concentration of pollutants cannot be treated and they need to keep in mind the long-term effects.”

He said 97 per cent of Malaysia’s water supply comes from rivers, and if rivers are not treated with care, they might lose their main source of water.

He added that 58 per cent of local rivers are categorised as clean, 34 per cent as slightly polluted and seven per cent as completely polluted.

Stephanie Evers, environmental science assistant professor of University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, said that with climate change, different countries react differently. Usually, the wet gets wetter while the dry, drier.

She said unusual weather patterns are not only affecting Malaysia, but taking place all over the globe.

Evers added that there is strong evidence which suggests human activities have contributed to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and climate change.

“When there is an increased concentration of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it acts as a barrier to heat escaping the earth,” she said, which explains the hotter days in the country.

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