KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 10 — An academic who has been studying ground movement in Kelantan is ringing alarm bells over underground water extraction in the east coast state.

Yong Chien Zheng, a lecturer of surveying at the University of Otago in New Zealand, said Kelantan might go the way of Jakarta in Indonesia unless the authorities take care with extracting underground water, The Star reported today.

Yong had carried out a 17-year-long study of Global Positioning System (GPS) data in 11 different locations in Kelantan and found that Kuala Krai had the highest subsidence rate of 4.22mm per year.

His study resulted in the publication of a report published in 2018 titled: “Groundwater extraction-induced land subsidence: A geodetic strain rate study in Kelantan, Malaysia”.

He told the newspaper that there is a high correlation between subsidence, which is when a land or building sinks, and groundwater extraction but could not identify the main cause due to insufficient data.

He added that unless the government takes measures now, land in Kelantan would sink, which could cause more parts of the state to be under water.

“The current subsiding rate in Kelantan is very much like Jakarta before the 1970s. The growing demand for groundwater in the Indonesian city drove a massive groundwater extraction that led to increased subsidence rates.

“As a result, about 40 per cent of Jakarta is now below sea level.

“We don’t want what happened in Jakarta to happen here, that’s why I published a paper of my study, hoping that it will warn the state government about the use of groundwater,” Yong was quoted as saying.

According to The Star, extraction of underground water is prevalent among Kelantan residents for their household needs.

“The subsidence rate will go up due to the lack of a scientific approach to control the balance between groundwater usage and recharge rate. In the worst-case scenario, we can expect an acceleration of subsidence due to economic growth.

“However, this prediction is inconclusive without further data analysis,” Yong was quoted saying further.

The newspaper also reported similarities between Yong’s study and that of a 2015 study carried out by Ami Hassan Din from University Teknologi Malaysia.

But a former general manager of Air Kelantan Sdn Bhd (AKSB) Datuk Azuhan Mohamed told The Star that there had been allegations of sinking in the state in the past due to groundwater extraction, but investigations had found none.

“To my knowledge, there’s none.

“I am not sure which areas the study looked at. We tried to get more information from the Mineral and Geoscience Department, but as far as I know, there are no such incidents.

“The study probably looked at some rural areas,” he was quoted saying.

Azuhan reportedly said there could be other factors that contributed to sinking land, such as heavy rains, soil compaction, underground mining, and abandoned mines collapsing.

But the federal government has noted that Kelatan’s water woes are due to the state water company’s poor management of its finances and resources.

On July 28, then Environment and Water Minister Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said AKSB was having trouble developing its water assets to meet growing consumer demand.

This included upgrading its existing assets to increase its water reserves and replacing degraded pipes to reduce the rate of non-revenue water (NRW).

But Tuan Ibrahim, who is from PAS, the same party that has been governing Kelantan for decades, was also reported saying that action had been taken to resolve the issues in the state.