Christmas puts me in a good mood. So, rather than chastize and criticize, I’m going to charitably offer a few tips on how a couple of our authorities can do a better job of dealing with recurring problems.
Firstly, let’s draw attention to Air Selangor. The Klang Valley suffered another unscheduled water cut yesterday because of a petroleum odour in Sungai Semenyih. Water was restored by 1am today but it would be one of a number of times water was cut this year because of water pollution. I hope it will be the last.
I must congratulate the sniffers at Air Selangor for their skill and quick action in sniffing out the odorous problems and cutting off the water supply so that Klang Valley residents don’t get polluted water! They do their job and that’s commendable. But, why has water pollution become a recurring cause of water cuts in the Klang Valley?
Why are the authorities unable to solve this issue once and for all? While the sniffers are doing their job, are those whose job it is to prevent the rivers from being polluted doing theirs? Are they ensuring that the upper reaches of the waterways right up to the treatment plants are protected so that it is impossible for anyone to pollute them?
It is not enough to identify the problem early and turn off the water supply immediately, and inconvenience thousands of households. This is one of the few instances when water pollution shouldn’t happen. Are the authorities doing everything they can to ensure it?
Are the upper reaches of rivers fenced sufficiently away from the river banks so that no one can throw their waste into the rivers? Are these fences patrolled and guarded against polluters and saboteurs? Are there housing and industries in these areas that are spilling their wastes into these stretches of water? If there are, are there not sufficient legislation to move these homes and industries to alternative sites and the owners provided with adequate compensation?
Investing money to enforce existing legislation to ensure the purity of the upper reaches of waterways to prevent water cuts caused by water pollution will make the state government look smart, capable, proactive and firm in solving a water problem that is needlessly causing a great deal of inconvenience to households and industries.
Perhaps, the key is enforcement. If Air Selangor can ensure its enforcement officers are doing their job and not letting off offenders lightly or with a little palm greasing, this problem will, in time, be resolved. The question is whether the Selangor government and Air Selangor have the moral will to enforce enforcement to prevent water cuts due to water pollution from recurring.
Enforcement, perhaps, is also an overlooked factor in seeking amendments to the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act (Act 342). The act imposes a maximum fine of RM1,000 on individuals for flouting standard operating procedures (SOPs), such as not wearing masks in public places.
The amendments seek to increase the fine to a maximum of RM100,00 or a jail term of not more than seven years or both. Opposition parties have announced they will not support the amendments as they were too punitive and open to abuse.
Due to opposition, the fines were reduced to a maximum of RM50,000 and a three-year jail term limit for individuals, and a maximum fine of RM500,000 (from RM1 million) for a corporate organization.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin in seeking the amendments said that the fines were raised to act as a deterrent to repeat offenders.
If they are repeat offenders then the fines they pay would add up to much more — if enforcement officers were doing their job and the Health Ministry doing its job in ensuring that the enforcement officers did their job!
Are the repeat offenders many or few? If few, why penalize the majority with hefty fines? I suspect introducing legislation is the easier way out than enforcing existing laws.
Like I said earlier, a key overlooked factor is enforcement. If enforcement is firm but fair with enforcers penalized for not enforcing, many of these recurring issues will disappear.
The question is whether ministers will enforce enforcement.