Water Resource Management in Malaysia

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Water Resources Management in Malaysia: NGO Perspectives
Chan Ngai Weng Professor Geography Section School of Humanities Universiti Sains Malaysia 11800 USM Penang, Malaysia {email: nwchan@usm.my} ABSTRACT Water is expected to be the main issue in the 21st century as this vital resource becomes increasingly polluted and scarce. In the worse scenario, countries are expected to go to war over water. Malaysia is well endowed with abundant water resources, but mis-management, abuse, general apathy and other reasons have resulted in water crises that caused untold hardships. In the past, government and water authorities have managed water resources in a top-down approach, largely based on supply management. In the new millennium, however, the majority of Malaysians are already well educated, informed and affluent and they should play an increasingly active role as a “partner” of the government in helping to chart the future of the country. Government is also changing by employing a more “rakyat friendly” approach as it is to everybody’s advantage to consult the rakyat, as the latter has much to offer. Equally, the rakyat can no longer sit back and wait for things to happen. Total development of the country and overall welfare of the people, including the vital life-giving water supply, should always be a joint effort on the part of government and rakyat. In this respect, government should even increase the consultation and participation of the rakyat in all relevant developments. In fact, the government can go one better, and that is to tap on the expertise of the rakyat (including NGOs) in water resource conservation and other related areas. NGOs nowadays are made up of experts in every field - engineers, water resource experts, hydrologists, educators, sociologists, economists and others. They can contribute immensely if the government allows them to. The best thing is, unlike private consulting companies, NGOs offer their service for free in return for nothing. NGOs are also very committed as the issues that they deal with are close to their hearts. Hence, saving water and water conservation should be a joint effort between government and NGO. Notwithstanding the government-NGO partnership, it is equally important for the industrial and business community to be in partnership with government and NGOs as well. There are many avenues for industry-NGO partnerships. More than that, water conservation partnerships should involve all concerned. It should be everyone’s responsibility ranging from the government to water corporations, water authorities, water companies, consultants, industries (including hotels, resorts and theme parks), businesses, NGOs, and the rakyat. It is with all these partnerships that we can ensure that water resources remain sustainable and our children and future generations guaranteed with adequate and clean water. Keywords Water Resources Management, Water Conservation, Demand Management, NGO, Government-NGO Partnership

INTRODUCTION The vital importance of water to life cannot be stressed often enough. Yet, it is the single most abused and illtreated resource the world over. It has been widely mismanaged, depleted, wasted, polluted and changed beyond what is clearly recognizable as water. Unlike in the not too distant past when water was plentiful and populations scarce, water is now becoming a rare commodity in many parts of the world. This is especially true for water-stressed countries in Africa, the Middle East, Australia, many parts of continental Asia, and island states (Asia-Pacific Peoples’ Environmental Networks, 1998). In many countries, water has either to be sourced from sources outside their borders (from neighbouring countries) or sourced via desalinization. On top of that, many countries that share the same river basin, are already now fighting over the resource

(International Committee of the Red Cross, 1999). It is therefore critical that available water resources be protected,...
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