New law to regulate dams nationwide in pipeline, says minister

Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Datuk Dr Xavier Jayakumar speaks at the International Conference on Dam Safety Management and Engineering in George Town November 19, 2019. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Datuk Dr Xavier Jayakumar speaks at the International Conference on Dam Safety Management and Engineering in George Town November 19, 2019. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Nov 19 ― The Water, Land and Natural Resources Ministry is drawing up a law to regulate the country’s 104 dams as currently there is none that specifically addresses safety and maintenance.

Its minister Datuk Dr A. Xavier Jayakumar also said there is no regulator to check dam development and operational activities.

“This is why we need to set up a regulatory framework in Parliament to be applicable to all dams, that includes privately owned and state-owned dams,” he said at the International Conference on Dam Safety Management and Engineering here today.

He said there are examples of similar regulatory laws for dams in other countries that can be used as a starting point for the new law.

“We might be able to tweak it to suit the local situation and we hope to get the legal framework ready for approval by the end of next year,” he said.

Dr Xavier said the safety management practice by dam operators in the country was largely self-regulated before 2018.

He said the Malaysia Dam Safety Management Guidelines (MyDAMS) was implemented in September 2017 and since then, the ministry has to ensure all dams are maintained in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner according to the guidelines.

He said out of the 104 dams in the country, some were over 100 years old while many were 50 years old.

He said this was why a special committee was established, called the Dam Safety Flying Squad to look at the existing dam infrastructure.

The Flying Squad ensures dam owners take measures to ensure the dams do not endanger life, prevent pollution in dam areas and protect dams and catchment areas from trespassers.

Meanwhile, when asked about the Sungai Perak Raw Water Transfer Scheme (SPRWTS), Dr Xavier said he has asked both Penang and Perak state excos to sit down together and negotiate an agreement.

“The ministry will mitigate discussions between both states to make sure it happens,” he said.

He stressed that the SPRWTS was not delayed and that it was just a matter of getting it done.

“If all goes well, it can start under RMK12,” he said referring to the 12th Malaysia Plan.

He said there needs to be a compromise between states when it comes to water transfer schemes.

“They can work out a price mechanism to benefit all sides so that no one will lose in the agreement,” he said.

He added that water security in Malaysia is in the grey.

“If we don’t do something to ensure water security by 2030, a lot of states in the country will face water stress,” he said.

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