Need for statutory water authority to manage and regulate the Ulu Muda region
There will be no end to the water dispute between Kedah and Penang without an overarching intervention.
The intervention of the federal government in particular the Ministry of Water and Natural Resources might be necessary.
But then, what kind of intervention is necessary and in what form.
A statutory body to manage, safeguard and regulate water supply from one common area or river basin might be the answer.
With the irrational Kedah MB Muhammed Sanusi Md Nor around, a friendly and reasonable dialogue between the heads of the two states is near impossible.
Despite the accusations and counter- accusations, the idea of Penang’s riparian rights have been lost on Sanusi.
Like a proverbial parrot, he keeps on repeating that Penang owes Kedah for the intake of raw water failing which Penang might have to face consequences. Penang might be been taken to court, water might be diverted from Penang and the latest being that the state might have to put up with muddy water.
The muddied thinking of Sanusi has no limits, at best it might be taken as jokes from a “clown” at worst it might allude to the danger of extensive logging in the Muda Region, the sprawling water catchment area for Kedah, Perlis and Penang.
There must be closure to this crazy and sometimes belligerent thoughts of Sanusi.
He might want to score some political points on the water matter, but the water issue must be taken seriously by not only three states but by the federal government.
The issue is not about the on-going quarrel between Kedah and Penang, but about the future of raw water supply to a population of 4.2 million people.
The combined population of the three states depend for water from the Ulu Muda water catchment area.
The future economic well-being of these three states are dependent on the availability of sufficient raw water.
This means that the Ulu Muda forests—the water catchment area for the three states must be safeguarded at all costs.
The whims and fancies of Sanusi have no place in the need to protect the water catchment area.
The Penang Water Authority or Perbadanan Bekalan Air (PBA) has recently suggested a long term solution for water woes in these three NCER states.
It argued for setting up of Ulu Muda Basin Authority (UMBA) with more than 50 percent of funding from the federal government and the balance to borne by the three states in accordance with their population and income.
The foremost concern of such authority is ensure an end to logging, the curse to long term water sustainability.
With the formation of the authority such as the UMBA, with sufficient funding from multiple sources, the need for logging and other kinds of non-sustainable activities will cease.
If UMBA is established, it would resemble something like the Australian Murray-Darling Basin of the five states: Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and South Australia.
Formed under the Australia Water Act 2007, UMBA is an independent statutory agency that will report to the federal government.
The MDBA is entrusted to tackle climate change, sustaining healthy rivers, prudent use of water and securing water supplies for the future.
The four challenges outlined might be applicable to the proposed Ulu Muda River Basin.
Needless to say, the northern Kedah water catchment area might have differences with Australia.
However, whatever the national and geographical differences, whether to be modelled after the Australian experience or not, there is need for a common authority to manage the Ulu Muda water catchment area.
Water supply to three northern states cannot be left to the mercurial or temperamental politicians.