Bi-partisan approach needed in the looming water crisis in Southern Johor

Media statement by DAP Johor Chairman and MP for Kluang Liew Chin Tong on 16th November 2015

DAP Johor calls on Menteri Besar of Johor Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin to declare that a water crisis is looming over Southern Johor as the Layang and Lebam Dams are drying at an unprecedented pace. We urge the Menteri Besar, for the sake of Bangsa Johor, to take a bi-partisan approach in the handling of the crisis.

In the interests of the Johor water users, I would like to suggest to Khaled to form a Select Committee on Water Crisis comprising of State Assemblymen from both sides to form a bi-partisan consensus on the looming crisis as well as longer term policy re-thinking to ensure that Johor is freed of water crises in the decades to come.

The State Government has commissioned a RM4 million project to transfer 30 million litres per day (MLD) of additional raw water from two rivers into the dams (from Sungai Papan to Sungai Lebam and from Sungai Tiram to Sungai Layang Dam).

But that may not be sufficient.

I visited SAJ Holdings yesterday with Parti Amanah Negara Johor Chief Aminolhuda Hassan, Deputy Opposition Leader Tan Chen Choon, Johor Jaya Assemblywoman Liow Cai Tung, Stulang Assemblyman Chen Kah Eng, DAP State Committee members Mazir Ibrahim and Sheikh Omar Ali, as well affected residents.

We highlighted the difficulties faced by residents affected by rationing which started since 16th August.

We were briefed by senior officers of SAJ who offered to show us the situations at Layang and Lebam Dams.

We are deeply concerned with what we witnessed.

First, The dams are way below critical levels;
The level at the Sungai Layang dam in Pasir Gudang, which supplies water to about 580,000 consumers, is now at 19.29m (as of today) (critical level 23.5m).

The level at the Sg Lebam, in Kota Tinggi, which provides water to about 53,000 consumers, is at 8m (critical level 12.27m.)

Second, cloud seeding has produced rain but it did not fall in the dam’s catchment areas hence this did not work.

Third, it is hoped that heavy rainfall in November and December would replenish the dams with sufficient water for the usually dry seasons from January to March. The hope has not materialised as yet.

If there is insufficient rainfall in the dam’s catchment areas in the next six weeks, a major water crisis will happen in Southern Johor in the first quarter of 2016.

Over the past month, I sense that there is a shift in opinion in the Khaled Government in its views on water management. For the first time, Menteri Besar Khaled discussed about issues such as rain water harvesting, checking the negative impact of palm oil plantation on water catchment areas, ensuring that housing development planning not causing water crisis in the long run, as well as studying the impact of climate change on water etc.

I commend Khaled for the new found realisation that Johor may be in for a long haul water crisis which requires major rethinking of water-related policies.

I urge him to take up the DAP’s offer to cooperate in a bi-partisan Select Committee on Water Crisis to find ways to avert a looming crisis in the interest of the public.

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