KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 12 — Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Datuk Dr A. Xavier Jayakumar asked Singapore to be more open towards Malaysia’s plan to revise its rate for raw water supply to the island nation.
During Question Time in Parliament today, Dr Xavier said that the revision is needed to address water supply issues in Johor, and to combat issues pertaining from climate change, which would influence the availability of water.
“Lastly, Speaker, if a case of water stress happens in the state of Johor, the government will prioritise the water supply needs of the people of Johor firstly, compared to that of outsiders.
“To overcome this water supply issue in Johor, a huge capital expenditure allocation is needed, to increase the (water) reserve margin to 10 per cent, as set by SPAN,” he said, referring to the National Water Services Commission.
“Apart from that a huge investment is needed to combat climate change phenomenon, and to achieve our sustainable goals.
“Therefore, I want to call on to the Singapore government, to be more open to Malaysia’s proposal to revise the price of the raw water sale, based on Clause 14 of the Water Agreement 1962. This is because the water stress in Johor would also affect Singapore,” he added.
In the early part of his reply, Xavier explained that the water supply issues in Johor, are caused by lack of raw water owing to the long dry spell and the high demand for raw water at Johor Baru and Kota Tinggi due to rapid developments.
He said the reserve margin rate for raw water in Johor, stands at a mere four per cent, which is much lower than between 10 and 15 per cent limit set by SPAN.
“Besides that, the demand for treated water supply in the Johor Baru district, is also predicted to increase by 3.5 per cent annually, that’s equivalent to 35 million litres a day.
“Come 2020, the demand for water in Johor Baru is expected to increase to 1,135 million litres per day, and the reserve margin for treated water is expected to hit zero, zilch, in the third quarter of 2020,” Dr Xavier said, adding that mitigation efforts to address the issue of treated water supply is gravely needed.
Dr Xavier was responding to a question from Segamat MP Datuk Seri Dr R. Santhara who asked him to state the current situation of water supply in Johor especially in southern Johor such as Johor Bahru and Kota Tinggi, including the issue of the sale of raw water to Singapore and the measures taken by the Ministry to ensure the sustainability of the long-term water supply.
In February, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad urged the Johor government and those in the state, to speak up against what he felt was a lopsided and “morally wrong” water agreement with Singapore.
At the opening of a discussion session between Johor government officers and members of the federal government, the Langkawi MP who is a staunch critic of the 1962 Water Agreement, termed Singapore as a “rich country” profiting off a poor country, that is Malaysia.
He claimed that Singapore has also been making a cool profit by pricing its desalinated water highly, but still only pay Malaysia three cents.
He said that Singapore only managed to reach its current stature owing to Johor’s water supply.
The issues surrounding the agreement between the two countries was thrust back into the limelight last year, after Dr Mahathir remarked that the price of raw water sold to Singapore did not make sense, announcing his plan to re-negotiate agreement’s terms.
The agreement ends in 2061, and allows Singapore to draw up to 250 million gallons a day (mgd) of raw water from Sungai Johor, at only RM0.03 per 1,000 gallons.
Johor then buys treated water from the island republic at RM0.50 per 1,000 gallons.