According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), there are around 633 million people who do not have access to clean water. Every day, over 800 children die from preventable diseases caused by poor water and lack of sanitation and hygiene.
In 2005, the United Nations (UN) launched the Water for Life Decade to help create a greater awareness on the need to better care for our water resources. It was then the United Nations General Assembly responded by designating September 22 as World Rivers Day.
In line with the success of the event and proclamation of World Rivers Day, the UN introduced the Sustainable Development Goals 6 which is “Clean Water and Sanitation” in 2015.
The official wording is to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. It is also one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations General Assembly in the same year.
The six targets for SDG 6 include end open defecation and provide access to sanitation and hygiene, improve water quality, wastewater treatment and safe reuse, increase water-use efficiency and ensure freshwater supplies, implement Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), and protect and restore water-related ecosystems.
Malaysia Water Usage’s Surge
Based on a study by Yuk Feng Huang, Shin Ying Ang, Khia Min Lee and Teang Shui Lee, about 97 percent of the raw water supply for agriculture, domestic and industrial needs come from surface water sources, primarily rivers
Water consumption in the country has gone up even as the national reserve margin is among the lowest since 2008 and seepage from leaky pipes continue.
Furthermore, the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) on May 15, 2020 showed consumption per capita in Peninsular Malaysia and Labuan has spiked to 230 litres per capita per day (LCD) last year, up from 226 litres (LCD) in 2018 and 222 LCD in 2017.
The reserve margin for the difference between the production capacity of water treatment plants and the usage was at 12.7 percent in 2018, the lowest since 2008. Last year, it crept up to 12.9 percent.
Waterco Malaysia’s Regional Business Development Manager, Koo Zao Cheong highlights that the government is doing a good job at providing the people the sanitation they need in terms of the benchmark set up by the UN.
“In terms of Peninsular Malaysia, most of them are covered with public toilets and personal household’s sanitation utilities which are administered by Indah Water. But only a small part of Malaysia (in Sabah and Sarawak) that has not been properly covered by their governing body,” he says.
Waterco is involved in the manufacture and distribution of pool and spa equipment, residential water filters, softeners and purifiers, and commercial water treatment equipment. They export their products to over 40 countries via its offices in Australia, New Zealand, China, and Malaysia.
Koo highlights that one of the reasons behind some Malaysians having less awareness on the UN’s SDG 6 is the low tariff brought by the water bills.
“The water here is inexpensive compared to other countries like Australia. Likewise, the clean water price is very high (RM6.17 to RM9.53 per kilolitre) so people there do not deliberately wash their cars during the dry season. However, here, we can wash our cars with only RM5 at automatic car wash stations,” he says to BusinessToday.
On the other hand, Campaigner for environmental conservation organisation, MyHutan, Aidil Iman Aidid shares that we should learn from our neighbouring country, Singapore of water management to properly adhere to the UN’s benchmark on “Clean Water and Sanitation” goal.
MyHutan seeks to ensure financing for forest conservation is institutionalized in the Federal Constitution run by Malaysian youth.
Aidil shares that thirty-three countries, including Singapore, have been singled out as those likely to face extremely high-water stress in 2040 in a report by the World Resources Institute (WRI), a think-tank in Washington.
“Systemic strategies are in place and it helps the situation by its massive national campaign to reduce water consumption where the media plays a key role in. Perhaps these mechanisms can also be adopted by Malaysia,” he says.
He also shares that government bodies and private entities can sustainably manage Malaysia’s environment, economy, and the social well-being of its people while still striving for the UN’s SDG 6.
“For example, governments can incorporate natural capital and the benefits that people get from nature in national accounts and measures of economic performance.
“Meanwhile, the private sector can implement principles of a circular economy that helps minimise resources and waste,” Aidil adds.
In a recent interview with Alam Flora Environmental Solution (AFES), the company offered environmental solutions with core business activities like Asset and Facilities Management (AFM), Infrastructure Cleansing and Waste Solutions (ICWS) and Waste Management Facility (WMF).
The methods above are sustainable ways which harnesses technological development and advancements that support the global goals introduced by the UN’s SDG and revolves around the concept of circular economy.
Water Crisis Recognition in The Country
“The UN’s SDG 6 is very significant to everyone and is also vital in Malaysia. It is fantastic to see the whole world work together when the Covid-19 outbreak hit as we all work together to provide proper sanitation for all all. But it is still a long way to go for us in the country,” Founder of H2GO Global, Dr. Rajiv Bhanot says.
H2GO Global is a water tech company that provides drinking water solutions to over 1.7 million people globally and believes everyone should have access to clean and safe drinking water.
He highlights that the water crisis has been a global issue for such a long time and closer to home, in Malaysia, it is a question to create as much awareness as it is possible about the UN’s SDG6.
“As we move forward to become a developed nation, we cannot have water poverty lingering around in the country. To date, people in Borneo and indigenous people in Kedah and Pahang are still lacking clean water they need.
“With technology in our hands, we are allowing clean water to access these isolated parts in Malaysia, and this is what we are doing in H2GO Global,” he tells BusinessToday.
The Minister of Environment and Water, Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man had highlighted that RM280 billion is needed to upgrade water infrastructure in Malaysia to meet sustainable water management and supply.
“We are seeing a lot of concerns from NGOs in terms of water resources in the country. Concerning development happening around Ulu Muda Forest Reserve, a water supply ecosystem for Penang, Perlis and Kedah could threaten our water security,” Aidil tells BusinessToday.
Commenting on the need for clean water in the F&B ecosystem, Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Meals in Minutes (MIM), Brandon Lim says, “Clean water is a necessity in the F&B industry as we are using water for sanitation in the food business. Using it deliberately and using it carefully should not be a problem in the industry as restaurants need to wash the ingredient even before serving the dish to the patrons.”
Co-Founder and Managing Director of MIM, Khiara Mia says through their collaboration with H2GO Global, they can bring awareness to the current water crisis to light and give it the attention it deserves. “At the heart of our business, we seek to empower and equip marginalised individuals with basic needs. When business owners help them become self-sufficient, this ultimately paves the way for a more progressive society.”