Side Views

The last drop of water – Sin Chew Daily

The arid climate since mid-January has led to a water supply crisis in a number of states in the Peninsula. Water rationing has been implemented in some areas of Selangor and Johor, while Negri Sembilan and Kedah might also take the emergency measures soon.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology forecast, the drought in the Peninsula will continue until the middle of March, after the northeast monsoon has finished passing. In other words, even if it rains, the rainfall will be very limited. The drought might become worse; thus, the public must get ready to face possible water shortages.

Even worse, the arid climate has also led to forest fires, causing serious haze in some areas. As of 10am on March 4, a number of areas including Banting, Kuala Selangor, Port Klang, Petaling Jaya and Shah Alam, had recorded unhealthy air pollutant index (API) readings, worrying the public.

In the face of the possible water shortage crisis, although hoping for rain and carrying out cloud–seeding operations, the authorities seem helpless.

The government has only repeatedly warned the people not to waste water over the past few days. The words are earnest but they fall on deaf ears. The general public will not listen before they reach the emergency mark.

In fact, the drought and water shortage in the Peninsula are both natural and human-induced disasters. The government as well as the people have an inescapable responsibility.

A century ago, American Indian chief Seattle said, "The earth does not belong to us. We belong to the earth." Resounding voices calling for earth and environmental protection can be heard around the world in recent years but in Malaysia, the concept is yet to reach a state of enlightenment. The environmental awareness of the government and the people is still very weak. As a result, a huge number of rainforests have been indiscriminately felled and profit-oriented constructions have continued damaging the environment, causing soil erosion, ecological quality deterioration, floods during rainy season and water shortages during droughts to become norms in the country.

Over-emphasising development while ignoring environmental protection has led to such man-made disasters while exposing the weakness of improper management. With proper management, floods could actually be reduced and water shortages could be avoided. Neighbouring Singapore serves as the best example here.

Singapore founding father Lee Kuan Yew made water a top priority in government policies and it was this strong awareness that has led Singapore, a country facing serious shortage of natural water resources, to develop more new catchment areas and reservoirs over the past 30 years while also setting up two desalination plants and four reclaimed water plants. The moves have turned water crises troubling the country into unlimited business opportunities.

Therefore, while facing the same longest drought in 50 years, no water rationing or water price hikes are required in Singapore. Instead, some areas in Johor, a state selling water to Singapore, have started water rationing operations, triggering public discontent. Isn't that a great irony?

In any case, water is the source of life. Whether it is the drought season and whether there are water shortages or not, we must always avoid wasting water, and never let our tears be the last drop of water! –, March 5, 2014.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.


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