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Singapore, Malaysia to boost fresh water yield from Johor River

SINGAPORE — The Singapore and Malaysian governments are looking at “technical solutions” that can raise the supply of fresh water from the Johor River, amid concerns over the dry weather and growing usage.

Singapore, Malaysia to boost fresh water yield from Johor River

The Linggiu Reservoir in Johor Bahru. TODAY file photo

SINGAPORE — The Singapore and Malaysian governments are looking at “technical solutions” that can raise the supply of fresh water from the Johor River, amid concerns over the dry weather and growing usage.

“The natural flow of the Johor River is not enough to meet the current needs of the Johor population as well as the Singapore population should the Linggiu dam fail,” Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli told reporters on Friday (Dec 16) after an annual meeting with his Malaysian counterpart, Mr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

The Linggiu reservoir, which enables Singapore to reliably draw water from the Johor River, has seen water levels recede to historic lows since August last year. Water levels there currently stand at 26 per cent, and a quick recovery is not in sight, Mr Masagos noted.

But the near-completion of the Johor River Barrage project has at least resolved persistent worries about saltwater intrusion. Mr Masagos said the Malaysians are now able to operate the barrage mechanically, meaning “salinity intrusion has been resolved henceforth”.

Water from Linggiu is released into the Johor River to prevent saltwater intrusion from the sea into the river, as salty water cannot be treated by the water plant further downstream.

Asked if any specific new plan was tabled at the meeting, Mr Masagos said both sides are still evaluating the technical feasibility and costs of various proposals to improve the yield of the Johor River.

“Both parties have been tasked to look at it and propose the most appropriate and timely measures to both Prime Ministers,” he added.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak and his Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong discussed the water issue during their annual leaders’ retreat earlier this week. Mr Najib assured that Malaysia will supply Singapore with the share of water due to it under the 1962 agreement signed between the two countries.

After the meeting, Mr Lee expressed his appreciation at a joint press conference with Mr Najib that Malaysia “will be undertaking appropriate and timely measures” to increase the yield of the Johor River.

With regard to concerns over ongoing land reclamation projects in the Straits of Johor, such as the mega Forest City project off Johor Baru,

Mr Masagos said that both countries are monitoring each other’s developments and exchanging data that include the environmental impact assessment for any of these projects.

“We have to ensure that when anyone develops, any part of the Straits of Johor, they must meet the requisite processes to ensure that before they do reclamation and even after the reclamation is done, these processes must be completed,” he said, adding that Malaysia and Singapore are signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

A joint press release issued by both the governments said the two Ministers also reviewed the progress achieved by the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Committee on the Environment.

The Ministers acknowledged the progress made in addressing transboundary haze pollution, and also reaffirmed their commitment to effectively implement the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution to prevent and monitor the pollution resulting from land and forest fires.

On the issue of tackling vehicular pollution, both countries noted that they had made marked improvements over the years and would continue to share experiences and strategies in controlling vehicular emissions, such as the tightening of emission standards and stepping-up of enforcement against smoky vehicles.

Both countries also agreed to work together to prevent and control oil pollution arising from incidents involving ship-to-ship transfer activities, as well as measures against accidental or illegal disposal of oil and oily sludge into the Straits of Johor.

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