Not long after Selangor’s river pollution fiasco last month, on October 4, Air Selangor posted an announcement on their Facebook page.
This was regarding yet another water cut, and at that time, the facility was unable to predict how long it would take before clean water could be distributed to affected urbanites again.
In the comments of that post, as usual, were angry netizens.
Some blamed Air Selangor for being incapable of preventing the issue in the first place, and asked for its management to step down.
On the other hand, there were some commenters who defended the facility as well.
It’s understandable that affected customers would be upset over this repeating incident. After all, water cuts directly impact the quality of life, and businesses also have their operations disrupted.
And of course, the pandemic has only served to worsen things, seeing as water is a necessity in upkeeping hygiene.
However, directing one’s anger at Air Selangor isn’t quite right, and I’ll explain why below.
1. Preventing Water Pollution Isn’t Their Job
Netizens were asking why Air Selangor couldn’t prevent this entire incident from happening again and again.
Before I actually looked up Air Selangor’s website, I too wondered why it seemed like they just kept letting river pollution happen.
But if you were to take a look at their website, it actually clearly states what operations they carry out.
Air Selangor is responsible for the treatment and distribution of water services to over *8.413 million people via over 2 million customer accounts in Selangor, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.”*National Statistics Department
Treatment takes place in reserves acquired from raw water sources. From what I understand, Air Selangor is not currently qualified to manage the raw water sources itself.
What it is able to do is treat these raw water sources and distribute the treated water to its many customers.
Therefore, if its raw water sources are already contaminated in the first place, there isn’t much that Air Selangor can do except monitor and treat the water appropriately.
2. They Weren’t The Ones Who Polluted The River
If you’re really looking for who to be angry at, look towards the factories and their management who have been intentionally polluting various rivers in Malaysia.
Be even angrier at those who are repeat offenders.
Air Selangor doesn’t own these factories, nor do they have the direct authority to police how these factories are run.
3. “Tell Us In Advance Before You Do Water Cuts!” Hello, How?
As mentioned earlier, Air Selangor isn’t the one polluting the rivers from where our water comes.
How can they then predict when an irresponsible factory would decide to pollute our precious rivers?
I’m willing to bet that these factories aren’t calling up Air Selangor in advance to say, “FYI, we’re about to drop some chemicals into Sungai [Name], ETA 9:45PM on October 5, 2020.”
4. The Water Cuts Are There For Good Reason
We’ve now established that Air Selangor isn’t responsible for the pollution, and therefore would be unable to predict when such incidents may happen.
So even despite my own annoyance, I’m still finding gratitude within myself for Air Selangor’s efforts.
The water cuts happen for a crucial reason: to ensure that we aren’t consuming or using water that could potentially harm us through ingestion or skin contact.
When I think about it this way, I don’t think it’s fair for me to remain upset at Air Selangor for the water cuts.
I believe that responsible businesses that care about their customers would also prefer not to poison them.
5. Air Selangor Doesn’t Have The Authority To Punish Offenders
As Air Selangor doesn’t have the authority to dish out punishments to polluting offenders, this responsibility falls upon the appropriate agencies and ministries.
If you’re demanding more severe punishments for these offenders (especially repeating ones), you could direct your complaints to the Department of Environment (DoE).
Change Has To Happen, But Being Angry At Air Selangor Won’t Help
From my perspective, here are some suggestions for handlng this incident and to prevent future ones from happening.
1. We should be educating not just the factories, but our public in general on how to not pollute and the effects of pollution.
Yes, I know that we’ve all learnt about this some point in our lives, but I believe that the way it’s being taught isn’t radical enough. We’re not feeling the impact.
We don’t fear its impact. If we do, then it’s only for a short while until we forget about it again.
Our pollution may not be as devastating as corporations’, but I think we have a responsibility to cumulatively combat pollution on every level, from household to industrial.
2. Factories and other major corporations with the potential of polluting our environment should go for mandatory awareness workshops or classes.
Perhaps a compliance checklist could be created, and they would have to fulfil at least the minimum criteria in order to “pass” the class and obtain a certificate.
That way, it wouldn’t be all talk and no action.
3. Higher fines should be imposed on offenders.
Currently, there’s a minimum fine of RM200,000 and a maximum fine of RM1,000,000.
However, for factories that potentially churn out revenue surpassing those figures, wouldn’t these fines just feel like a slap on the wrist?
If not, why would repeat offenders even exist?
An even more impactful solution would be suspending their operations for a duration of time, or in extreme cases, indefinite closure until they improve, or just permanent closure.
4. The authoritative agencies should also conduct frequent audits and compliance checks, similar to spot checks.
For this, the government and its ministries should allocate a specific budget for these activities.
5. Ex-Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali suggested that factories operating on river banks must be relocated too, and that their operations must first be approved by the DoE.
On Air Selangor’s end, based on the many negative comments, I believe there’s still public uncertainty about its scope of responsibilities.
6. They could make a public statement on social media that clearly explains what actions are within their control, and what aren’t.
Now, let’s hope that all parties make the right choices, that such offences wouldn’t happen again so frequently, and that our water supply comes back soon.
Featured Image Credit: Syafwan Zaidon, MalayMail