KUALA LUMPUR: Nearly four million people in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor are dealing with cuts to water supplies that are scheduled to last until Christmas eve, drawing sharp criticism from the public and politicians alike, as well as from non-governmental organisations and the Council of Churches.
The disruption, which started on Monday (Dec 19), was scheduled to allow Malaysia's largest power utility, Tenaga Nasional, to service substations at its facility in Hulu Selangor. It provides power to the three main water treatment plants in Selangor and the Federal Territory.
However, the timing of the maintenance works has been slammed as insensitive, given that it falls during the week of Christmas, the Winter Solstice festival, as well as the school holidays. Residents have been warned they will be without water for up to 54 hours at a time.
"It's pretty bad," said Petaling Jaya resident Vinsant Huang. "It's like someone didn't really think people are going to use water during Christmas. It's a time when people are taking off work, they're probably visiting family, preparing Christmas feasts. A lot of that is going to be really hard to do because there's just no water."
The general secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia, Reverend Hermen Shastri, also expressed disappointment. "The timing of the water cuts a week before Christmas is preposterous and is totally insensitive to the Christian community," he told Channel NewsAsia.
"Whatever reason given by the authorities is hurting to Christian families who, without water, are unable to ready their homes for family gatherings and hosting open houses. The hurt is so great that the families will call the authorities to account for the unhappiness felt by so many," he said.
A domestic helper filling up pails of water to bring up to her apartment. (Photo: Sumisha Naidu)
Malaysian officials said they are working as fast as they can to restore water supply ahead of schedule and before Christmas eve, but defended the timing of the maintenance works.
"We've observed a trend in water consumption over the past few years that December is the month where the least amount of water is used and when there is the most amount of water in the river," said Mr Zaini Ujang, secretary-general of Malaysia's Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water at a news conference on Monday. "So it's the best opportunity for us."
Nonetheless, the National Water Services Commission has promised that in future, no maintenance works will be allowed a week before or after a major holiday.