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LETTER TO EDITOR: WORLD WATER DAY 2018 – YOUR ANSWER IS IN THE NATURE

21ST MARCH 2018 | LETTER TO EDITOR

WORLD WATER DAY 2018 – YOUR ANSWER IS IN THE NATURE

World Water Day is celebrated every 22nd March. It is to mark the importance of water to human civilisation and the nature. This year's World Water Day focuses on ‘Nature for Water’. This year’s theme highlights solutions which are hidden within the environment. Increase in human population and economic activities have increased pollution loading to our water resources and increase water scarcity problem globally. Destruction of our nature has also contributed to climate change that gives direct impact to water resources as well as our ecosystem. Let’s seek some answers from the nature.

Drought, Flood & Water Scarcity

Floodplains, freshwater swamps and wetlands have given simple understanding that the rainwater may exceed normal levels and there are natural ways to contain flood occurrence. Contain and release slowly is a natural mechanism that prevents flood. When we can contain water during high rainfall season, we can use it during dry season to fight drought too. Dams are very old solution that has evolved to play multiple roles to solve drought, flood and water scarcity issues. Dams are used as source for raw water that can be converted into drinking water or irrigation for our agricultural sector. Dams also can be used for electricity generation as an additional function. Therefore, it is important for us as a nation to protect the environment that gives us protection from water related disasters. Furthermore, we should reintroduce these natural systems as man-made systems to further enhance our raw water security.

Economic Activities and Pollution Loading

Department of Statistics Malaysia’s population data indicates that we have 28.7 million Malaysians and 3.3 million non-Malaysians in 2017. This consists of 75.5% urban population and 24.5% rural population. More than 70% of our population is in urban zones. Growth in population will pose a need for resources and land as well as increase in economic activities. Therefore, increase in population density and economic activities increases pollution loading and causes water scarcity. Demand for water and resources from urban dwellers cannot be fully managed with resources within the urban areas. This causes transfer of resources from locations faraway from demand zones. Similarly, the waste and wastewater generated by urban dwellers will pose immediate threat to the environment due to the pollution loading factor. When the environment fails to cope with high pollution loading, pollution occurs rampantly. It causes the water within urban areas unfit for consumption and any treatment technology will cause spike in cost of resources including treated water. There are two ways to solve these issues. It is impossible for us to control in-flow of people to urban areas, but we can improve the existing resources in urban areas to make it usable and reduce spreading urban demand to rural areas. We can do it the natural way.

Failing to Plan and Policy Makers

To achieve a better balance and improvement to our water and other resources, we need to plan and educate the policy makers on the importance of protection of our environment. With the increase in population and development we will need more water and other resources. Does it make any sense to reduce water catchment areas when you need more water? Even if the dams are full, if you do not have sufficient treatment capacity and infrastructures to supply treated water to the demand zones, there will be insufficient water. The nature has buffer and we need to have more reserve margin. The National Water Services Industry Restructuring should have been completed during the 9th Malaysia Plan by end of 2010. It is still not completed after 8 years.

We have flood mitigation solutions developed with taxpayers’ money. If land-use around the flood mitigation project changes rapidly, this project will fail to mitigate the flood. We did follow environment’s solution but we fail to preserve the environment to keep the solution working!

Efficiency and Consumption

There are 2 types of water cycle that is involved in human civilisation. The first cycle is the natural water cycle by the environment. The second cycle is the part where we extract water for our use and discharge the wastewater back to the environment again. When pollution loading is low, the environment is able to control pollution. Therefore, we need to reinvent our part of the water cycle to ensure we are able to reduce pollution loading and achieve pollution reversal in our water resources. It is possible to leave more clean water for the future generation.

Similarly, efficiency in consumption of our water and resources is a very important solution. ‘Static efficiency’ can be achieved by introducing legislation for mandatory labeling and minimum performance or efficiency standard that can prevent old and wasteful technologies being used locally. This solution gives huge and broad savings in terms of improving national efficiency in water usage. The ‘dynamic’ efficiency lies with the end users’ behaviour pattern. There are also possibilities of reusing and recycling wastewater within a facility or to be used in other non-potable demand areas. We tap the resources and optimise its utilisation!

Rainwater harvesting is another solution to substitute our water usage. If we use more rainwater while maintaining our treated water use, it is equivalent to increasing our per capita water footprint and we will not be efficient. Substitution cannot be seen as green technology, it must contribute to efficiency in water and resources use.

Water For Life

Look at the children of our nation. They deserve a better future. Some of the environment’s beauty experienced by us will not be seen by the future generation. We must always remember that we borrowed our water and other resources from the future generation. We have a lot of work to do, because who are we to destroy the environment and leave a bleak and painful future for them?

Piarapakaran S.
President
Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (AWER)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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