Asia Minute: Water Woes in Malaysia

Dec 22, 2016

Kuching East Malaysia
Credit Lenny K Photography / Flickr

While this is a week of holiday celebrations for many, it’s a difficult week for millions of people in Malaysia. That’s because their water has been shut off—and in many cases it’s not coming back until the weekend. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Nearly four-million people in Malaysia have had their water cut off.  Malaysia’s largest power company shut off the water on purpose--so it could perform maintenance on electrical substations that provide power to the three main water treatment plants in the Klang Valley.  That includes part of the capital city of Kuala Lumpur.

The general secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia called the timing “preposterous and totally insensitive to the Christian community.”  According to the last census, only about 9% of Malaysia’s population is Christian.  About 20% is Buddhist and more than 60% is Muslim.  But this is not just a matter of religion—this is a common period for school holidays and there are parties and a festival for the Winter Solstice.  A government minister said December is the month when people use the least amount of water…but in the future, no major maintenance work will be allowed for a week before or after a major holiday.

Water is a sensitive topic in Malaysia.  A World Bank Report this week showed a relatively high number of Malaysian companies often face water shortage problems.  The report said 7% of Malaysian manufacturers reported at least one water shortage a month.  That’s a higher rate than any other country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations…and higher than China.