Protecting our Precious Water Catchments

By:

Rexy prakash chacko

Affiliations:

Penang Hills Watch

Policy Code:

3j Environment

Problem Statement:

With climate change impact on rainfall patterns becoming less predictable, Malaysia can no longer be complacent about water security. In recent years water shortages for irrigated agriculture and potable water supply for urban and industrial use have become more severe. Yet disturbances to water catchment areas are threatening water yields. Even the upper forested parts of many water catchments are subjected to disturbances, such as logging in Ulu Muda in Kedah and highway construction in Ampang and Ulu Gombak in Selangor. Many water catchments already have agriculture and urban activities happening at the lower reaches, affecting both water quantity (through abstraction) and quality (through pollution) above the intake points. With population growth, the demand for water both for agriculture and for urban and industrial uses will increase while supply will dwindle if water catchments are not adequately protected and managed.

Value(s) and Belief(s):

The crucial ecosystem service provided by forests in supplying water for economic growth and human well-being has to be more greatly appreciated, and the importance of minimising pollution and contamination of water sources for extraction should be taken seriously for present and future generations of Malaysians.

Proposal of Solution:

1. Entire areas of natural water catchments within permanent forest reserves (PFR) must be officially classified/gazetted as water catchment forests (hutan tadahan air) under the National Forestry Act 1984 to afford the necessary protection against logging and all other unauthorised use within water catchments. For example, it is estimated that only 16% of the Ulu Muda PFR have been gazetted as water catchment forests, while the remaining 84% remain available for timber extraction as allowed within PFR
2. In the case of Penang where water catchments gazetted in 2004 under the Government of Penang Gazette cover entire catchment areas that include existing agriculture use, State by-laws must be enacted to enable legal enforcement against unauthorised water abstraction, felling of trees and contamination of the river due to uncontrolled agrichemical use.

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