Feeling the heat: Johor businesses, residents activate contingency plans amid dry spell

Feeling the heat: Johor businesses, residents activate contingency plans amid dry spell

(aw) Sungai Lebam dam
Sungai Lebam Dam, Johor as seen on February 28, 2019. (Photo: Norbakti Alias)

KOTA TINGGI, Johor: Businesses and residents in the Kota Tinggi area are making contingency plans for water supplies, after a dry spell that has seen water levels at major dams hovering around the critical mark.

Businesses and residents interviewed by Channel NewsAsia said this is not the first time they have encountered a dry spell and had made plans to manage the situation.

A worker in a vegetable farm, who only wanted to be known as Krish, said the farm owner has constructed a pond to make sure that there is enough water in the event of a prolonged dry spell.

“We had gone through dry season previously and experienced water shortage,” he recounted.

Kota Tinggi vegetable farm
A vegetable farm in the vicinity of Kota Tinggi, Johor as seen on February 28, 2019. (Photo: Norbakti Alias)

On top of that, the farm owner has set up an irrigation system for water to flow to the five hectares of land planted with pineapple, lemongrass and pumpkin.

The farm is situated along the entrance towards the Sungai Lebam dam, where water levels are almost two metres below critical level.

The worker believes the water supply will be sufficient in the event of water cuts.

Likewise, for an eatery owner in nearby Bandar Penawar, storing water is the best solution.

“We do hope it won’t last long if we really need to face water rationing,” said eatery owner Aziz Ahmad.

“We can keep water for two days on our own but pray it won’t go beyond a week of shortage,” he added.

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On Tuesday (Feb 26), Johor International Trade, Investment and Utilities Committee Chairman Jimmy Puah Wee Tse said water levels at Sungai Lebam Dam were at 10.9m. The normal water level was 14m, while the critical level is 12.7m.

When Channel NewsAsia visited Sungai Lebam on Thursday, it was clear that the water level was well below the critical mark.

Meanwhile, Lok Heng Dam in the area was showing a water reserve-level of two metres, according to the state government on Tuesday. This is just 50cm above the critical level.

Residents around Kota Tinggi have been advised to use water sparingly.

Sports school principal
Jasri Md Isa, acting principal of Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sport School. (Photo: Norbakti Alias)

Mr Jasri Md Isa, the acting principal of Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sport School of Bandar Penawar (SSTMI) said he was shocked to learn about the critical situation of the two dams.

He immediately checked with water provider Ranhill SAJ and was assured that the school will be given assistance if there is water rationing.

According to him, SSTMI had faced the same problem around two years ago and the utilities company had provided the school with five water tanks.

“We use a lot of water here as students will clean themselves after training sessions in addition to their daily baths,” he said.

There are more than 480 students in the government school.

Kota Tinggi sports school
Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sport School of Bandar Penawar, Johor.  (Photo: Norbakti Alias)

Mr Jasri noted that three Olympic sized swimming pools in the school were very useful during such a situation.

“Every time we faced water rationing, the school will arrange for the students to take turns having their baths using the water from the pool… that is the advantage for having such pools.

“Besides that, students whose parents are staying nearby will be encouraged to go home to control the usage of water,” he said.

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‘HOPE FOR THE BEST’

However, not all businesses have the luxury of concrete contingency plans.

For a laundromat owner who only wanted to be known as Mr Wong, he can only hope for the best.

“We can’t depend solely on water supply through SAJ’s lorries as I heard sometimes they provide raw (untreated) water,” he said.

“In this business, we need clean treated water to make sure the clothes don’t get stained.”

He added: “(I) can only pray hard that the situation won’t be prolonged."

The areas likely to be affected if there is a prolonged dry spell include Bandar Penawar, Pengerang, Teluk Ramunia, Air Tawar and Tanjung Balau with a population of about 100,000.

Source: CNA/aw

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