Sunday 19 May 2024
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KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 1): The government intends to review the 1962 water agreement with Singapore because of "certain issues" with aspects of the agreement, according to Natural Resources, Environment, and Climate Change Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad.

In winding up his ministerial speech on Budget 2024 in the Dewan Rakyat on Wednesday, Nik Nazmi stated that the last time Malaysia and Singapore discussed the water agreement was at the end of 2019 and early 2020.

"We believe it is important to review the water agreement because we believe there are 'a few problems' within some aspects, and we want to review it to find the best solution," he said in response to an interjection from Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man (Perikatan Nasional-Kubang Kerian), who was his predecessor at the ministry.

However, Nik Nazmi did not elaborate on the specific "'problems" alluded to, but acknowledged reviewing the water agreement is not a simple matter, as it involves water supply for both Malaysia and Singapore.

"Yes, Malaysia supplies raw water at a lower price, but at the same time, Johor also purchases treated water from Singapore. According to the original agreement, there is a limit, and exceeding that limit incurs a higher fee.

"So, there is a tolerance where Johor is allowed to purchase treated water beyond the limit at a cheaper rate. Given Johor's high water demand, we need to find a comprehensive solution for this issue," he added. It is unclear what the "tolerance" level is after which the higher fee kicks in for water that Johor purchases beyond the stated limit.

Nevertheless, while the government is aware that substantial investments are needed to upgrade the infrastructure near the Johor River, Nik Nazmi emphasised that Malaysia will not compromise on the country's interests, as the government aims to ensure that Johor generates more revenue.

The 1962 agreement, which expires in 2061, entitles Singapore to draw up to 250 million gallons a day (mgd) of raw water from the Johor River, at a rate of three sen per thousand gallons of raw water. In return, Johor is entitled to a daily supply of treated water, up to 2% or 5 mgd of the raw water supplied to Singapore.

In 2018, then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad described the price of three sen per thousand gallons as "ridiculous" and expressed Malaysia's intention to approach Singapore to renegotiate the terms of the water supply deal.

However, during the 10th Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat held on Monday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim reportedly stated that Malaysia's position is clear, affirming the commitment to honouring the water supply from Johor to Singapore.

Anwar also emphasised the need for a joint effort to enhance the capacity of the Johor River to supply both Johor's expanding needs and Singapore's requirements.

For more Parliament stories, click here.

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