Water woes

I was one of the about 1.5 million people who were affected by the recent water cuts in Selangor. It was quite an adjustment making do with occasional low pressure water supply or none at all. But, I think the Selangor government did a reasonably good job of dealing with the crisis, considering what it is up against.

I live in USJ, Subang Jaya where the water supply was cut 4 times in the past 2 months. The first time the tank went dry, there was air block (or is it air lock?! whatever!) in the pipes when water was restored. And — on the advice of some people — I went knocking on the pipes until the water gushed out! The second time it happened, it was 2am and as I knocked on the pipes my neighbour knocked back! So, I stopped, not wanting to disturb anybody’s sleep! I had to call my regular Bangladeshi plumber (who is also a gardener!) who opened this and that and water began to flow!  He took RM 30 for 15 mins of labourless labour!

Now, I dreaded a water cut because it meant I have to knock on pipes or dish out another RM 30 to clear a possible air lock. Water cut was getting costly! I couldn’t clean house or cook and had to eat out. And getting sick, because I can’t eat too much of outside food. But, I think, the Selangor state government and/or Syabas (which manages water supply) might have got wiser from experience.

The third time there was a cut, they reduced the pressure and water flowed, albeit with less force. But there was water, at least in the mornings. I learnt how to use water sparingly, washing only in a trickle! I couldn’t believe it that I washed a baking dish with one glass of water! I scooped up water with one hand and splashed and cleaned, and it was ok!

The fourth time, it happened, I got tired! What’s wrong with the government! Can’t even solve a problem after 3 times! I went ranting at neighbours, telling them we must start a protest! Nobody was interested; they were more keen on filling their pails with water! Well, I thought, I’d better do the same.

Filling pails with low pressure water was time-consuming and while waiting for the pails to fill up I wondered why the authorities couldn’t solve this problem earlier. I recalled what the laundryman told me earlier. “You know, lah. These people. You must give them something, then only they’ll work for you! Like that, lah! MPSJ all like that!”

The state government claims sabotage but the state Umno denies it and challenged the state to prove it by making a report, which, the state government said it did. While the politicians were shoving blame, the people went with little or no water.

It is likely that there are still many civil servants in the state government who are used to getting “incentives” from the previous administration and want the practice continued before they get things moving. Such people may take their time and solve issues only when it is necessary to do so. That is the legacy left behind by the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) government with the civil service and their supporters.

Everyone knows it. But, that shouldn’t be used as an excuse not to solve a problem or to take your time in solving a problem that affects thousands of people. Public services must be provided despite politicking.

It’s difficult to administrate a state where civil servants don’t or take their time about being cooperative, and if federal government assistance comes slowly or reluctantly. These are some of the problems opposition-held states are faced with, except, perhaps in Kelantan, where the federal government swiftly made available funds and other resources to help the PAS leadership deal with the floods of two years ago. Both PAS and Umno were courting each other for their own reasons, and hence the state got much-needed help.

Such help wasn’t very apparent in Selangor. Considering the constraints the state government has to deal with, I think, Selangor citizens were generally very patient. There were some expressions of annoyance but most people made the best of a bad situation.

After 3 days of low water pressure supply, water returned in full force today! I hope it was a steep learning curve for the state government and that they are better equipped now to manage future crises in the state.

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