Friday, April 25, 2014
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Perak’s water system: Doing it wrong

Koon Yew Yin

perak-waterI refer to Ipoh Echo front page article, 16-30 Nov 2012 ‘Perak Water Board, doing it right the first time’. I wish to point out that building the Sultan Azlan Shah dam across Sungai Ulu Kinta was not the right thing to do.

About eight years ago, I wrote to the former Perak Menteri Besar Tajol Rosli Ghazali to inform that since Mudajaya constructed the filtration system at Parit to extract water from Sungai Perak (the largest source of water to the greater Ipoh region), there was no need to build the dam across Sungai Kinta. As we all know Sungai Kinta is only a small stream in comparison with Sungai Perak.

He did not respond to my letter.

Subsequently I wrote him another letter that he should get a reputable independent engineering consultant to prove me wrong so that when he increased the water rate to recover the additional cost of more than one billion ringgit (this cost includes the dam construction, new filtration system, new reservoirs, distribution pipes, etc.) consumers would not feel cheated.

There was no response from the MB or his aides to this letter too.

In view of the heavy and unnecessary financial burden put on the Perak rakyat, I spoke to the press and pointed out that savings through other methods could possibly amount to half the money spent on the water expansion project in Kinta. The mainstream media predictably failed to publicize my complaint.

Although there is a new administration in Perak, the issue of the mismanagement of Perak’s water resources is as relevant today as it was eight years ago.

The current Perak Mentri Besar, Zambry Abdul Kadir has given us his assurance of greater transparency and accountability in the Perak administration. To prove his words, he should answer the following questions:

  1. Before the Perak Water Board (PWB) decided to spend more than one billion ringgit to build the dam across Sungai Kinta and all the ancillary works, did the PWB engage a reputable independent Engineering Consultant to make a comparative study to save costs? Without an independent opinion no one can know whether this huge investment is a mistake or not. It is so easy to show profit by increasing the water rate and consumers have no alternative choice.
  2. Did PWB consider expanding or making improvements to the existing filtration system in Parit to produce more water? Surely this should have been the first logical step rather than building an entirely new system.
  3. Did PWB consider working overtime or at night using the improved facilities in Parit to produce more water? This cost effective method to increase production is usually taken by private competitive manufacturers.
  4. Did the PWB consider building additional service reservoirs to store the additional water produced at night to cater for day use? If we have more reservoirs to store water there would not be any water shortage.
  5. Since the total cost exceeded one billion ringgit, how did PWB select the consultant, bearing in mind consultancy fees amounted to tens of millions ringgit? Was it an open and transparent tender award process?
  6. How did PWB select the contractors? Did they invite open competitive tenders? Did they award the contracts to the cheapest bidders?
  7. Why is our [Perak] water rate higher than the rate in Penang despite us having more accessible and superior sources of water?
  8. How many billion ringgit does Perak still owe the Federal Government as a result of the new system? Do we need to pay back the loan?

    Finally, since PWB is operating a monopoly business, it is easy for it to make a profit. It was reported that for 2011, the Board’s revenue was RM275.46 million and the profit was RM104 million, and also that the 1,100 employees will be given a 4.5 months bonus. Shouldn’t the PWB consider reducing the water rate to benefit the consumers first before giving themselves such a fat bonus?

I trust the Perak Menteri Besar will look seriously into this matter which affects all Perakians and look forward to his full response to my questions and concerns.


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