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NEWS: Right to water raised in Langat 2 fight in Malaysia

The UN resolution on the right to water has been brought into a political battle between the federal government of Malaysia, the state goverment of Selangor, private water companies, a coalition of non-governmental organizations, and the Malaysian Trade Union Congress. The issue is the construction of the Pahang-Selangor Interstate Raw Water Transfer Project, the Langat 2 Treatment Plant and water rate increases.

THE NATIONAL WATER SERVICES COMMISSION: Roger Tan of the National Water Services Commission in Malaysia writes in the Malaysian Star, “The Federal Government foresees that the residents of Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya will experience water supply shortage by 2014 unless the increase in demand can be effectively met. …The Pahang-Selangor Interstate Raw Water Transfer Project, comprises the construction of a 45km tunnel to transport some 1.89 billion litres of raw water daily to Selangor; Kelau Dam; Semantan Pumping Station; and Langat 2 Treatment Plant and its distribution system. With Japanese funding, the tunnel construction commenced on June 1, 2009 and is expected to be completed by May 2014. …However, the Selangor government has decided to tie together the state water restructuring issue involving four concessionaires – Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas), Puncak Niaga (M) Sdn Bhd (PNSB), Syarikat Pengeluar Air Sungai Selangor Bhd (Splash) and Konsortium Abass Sdn Bhd – and the commencement of Langat 2 Project. As a result, the land acquisition process has been put on hold and the relevant local authorities have also been directed to withhold planning permission for the development of the Langat 2 Project.”

Tan argues, “Access to clean water is a fundamental human right. This was expressed in the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly passed on July 28 last year which Malaysia, together with 121 other nations, voted in favour of despite developed countries like the United States, Canada and Australia abstaining from voting. It follows, to take it facetiously, that there will not be any water shortage by 2014 or to further delay in granting the planning permission or subsequently withholding the building plan approval for Langat 2 Project as it will only offend this fundamental human rights principle. It is hoped that those involved in the decision-making will set aside their political differences and come to their senses so as to uphold and safeguard the interests and needs of water consumers in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya. …Selangor should, therefore, immediately honour the Pahang-Selangor Interstate Raw Water Transfer Project Agreement by expediting the land acquisition process as well as without any further delay causing the planning permission to be issued for the Langat 2 Project by not linking it to the Selangor water industry restructuring issue.”

THE MALAYSIAN GOVERNMENT: Last week, the Malaysian government said it “will consider taking legal action against the Selangor government if construction of the Langat 2 Water Treatment Plant is still stalled at the year-end. …(Last August the federal minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water) gave a year-end deadline for the Selangor state government to approve construction of the plant to supply water in the Klang Valley. …Approval for the Langat 2 project…was previously given by the state government under the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration. Development, however, has since stalled under the current state government.” The Malaysian Star reported last week that, “(Malaysian prime minister) Najib stressed that water supply should never be politicised, referring to the inter-state raw water transfer project between Pahang and Selangor. ‘Water is a basic human need and the Federal Government has never politicised this issue,’ said Najib before launching the World Water Day 2011 celebrations here. The project came to a standstill when the Selangor government refused to grant approval for the construction of the Langat 2 water treatment plant on its side.”

THE COALITION FOR SUSTAINABLE WATER MANAGEMENT: The Coalition for Sustainable Water Management, a group of non-governmental organizations, has argued for years that projected water demand is grossly inflated to justify the RM9 billion interstate water transfer project. They have called “upon the federal government, and the Selangor and Pahang state governments to stop all ongoing work on the Pahang-Selangor Raw Water Transfer Project pending a complete review of the basis for the water transfer projects as given in the National Water Resources Study report.”

THE MALAYSIAN TRADE UNION CONGRESS: In 2004, a 30-year water services concession was awarded without competitive bidding to the private company Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas), a subsidiary of Puncak Niaga Holdings. The concession contract was signed by the federal government as well as the then state government of Selangor. The Malaysian National News Agency reported in mid-February that, “The Malaysian Trades Union Congress and 13 others do not have the legal right to have access to the audit report and water concession agreement signed between the Federal government, the Selangor state government, Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas), the Court of Appeal heard here Tuesday. MTUC and 13 others said that as water consumers in Selangor, Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur, they had the right to gain access to the audit report and the concession agreement signed December 15, 2004. They claimed that the audit report formed the basis for the 15 per cent increase in water tariff in the Klang Valley announced on October 14, 2006. Their counsel Malik Imtiaz Sarwar had submitted that his clients had the right to gain access to the documents because access to water was a basic human right and that water supply was monopolised by Syabas in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Selangor.”

Tan’s commentary is at More from the Coalition for Sustainable Water Management at The federal government statement is at We noted the MTUC court challenge in a campaign blog at