The Sunday Star
Legally Speaking by Roger Tan
Penang and Kedah must sit down and work out an agreement that’s mutually beneficial to both states and their people.
IT is interesting to read Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s statement that Kedah’s proposal to charge Penang for raw water was “unreasonable” and akin to “asking money for nothing” (“Penang not getting raw water from Kedah”, The Star, June 17).
It is equally interesting to read Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir’s response that both state governments should negotiate the raw water payment issue. But this is not a new issue. The previous PAS-led government too had made a similar request.
To understand the issue, it is good to look at the diagram. Basically, there are three major river basins in Kedah – Kedah River, Muda River and Merbok River. The Muda River basin is the largest in Kedah covering a total area of about 4,150 sq km. (A river basin is an area of land drained by a river and its tributaries.) There are two dams in this basin – Muda dam and Beris dam. The Beris dam is located at Muda’s River’s tributary, Beris River. The Muda dam is located upstream of the Muda River covering an area of about 985 sq km. When necessary, the Muda and Pedu dams complement each other via the 6.6km Saiong tunnel.
The Pedu and Muda dams are located together with the Ahning dam in the Ulu Muda forest reserve, which includes the water catchment area – the size of which is larger than Penang state.
In 2003, a Barisan Nasional-led government had planned to log thousands of hectares of forest in this sprawling catchment area. In June 2008, Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak had also threatened to fell trees near this catchment area unless the Federal Government paid RM100mil to the Kedah Government.
Fortunately, no major logging took place, otherwise silt from logging would not only pollute rivers but also clog up dams and water treatment plants. Large-scale cutting down of trees too would increase the salinity level, causing the water in the reservoirs to turn salty. Hence, whatever happens to this area will adversely affect the lives of the people of Kedah and Penang. The reservoirs here irrigate our country’s main rice bowl and supply most of the water to the two states.