KUALA LUMPUR, April 20 — State governments are responsible for the protection of water catchment areas, Dr Xavier Jeyakumar said today amid claims that Putrajaya owes them compensation for land loss.

The water, land and natural resources minister said states have the duty to protect their respective water catchments and the surrounding land, including erecting buffer zones against development or agriculture.

“As far as we’re concerned all water catchments must be protected and gazetted,” the Kuala Langat MP told reporters at an Earth Day event here.

“Nobody should go into water catchment areas and there must be proper buffers between water catchments and forests as well.”

The Pahang government is seeking RM17 billion in federal compensation for the loss of the state’s forest and wildlife reserves caused by water catchments, most of it to supply water outside the state.

Bernama reported Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail as saying the land involved covered one million hectares, forcing the state government to bear a “high opportunity cost”.

Last month Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBAPP) chief executive officer Datuk Jaseni Maidin said Kedah, Penang and Perlis should also be compensated for conservation of the Ulu Muda water catchment.

Ulu Muda encompasses 163,103 ha of rainforest.

About 70 per cent of Perlis’ raw water, 96 per cent of Kedah’s raw water and more than 80 per cent of Penang’s raw water originates from Ulu Muda, The Star reported.

Dr Xavier responding said no decision has been reached yet.

“We haven’t decided to compensate any states,” he said.

“All state government wants compensation, whether we will be able to give them the compensation is a different problem,” he added.

The federal government may consider reforestation programmes to help states utilise the land for forest-based industry and recoup losses.