Leaders agree to ensure adequate water from Johor River

The Linggiu Reservoir in Johor in 2012. Singapore and Malaysia have agreed on the importance of ensuring reliable and adequate water supply from the Johor River.
The Linggiu Reservoir in Johor in 2012. Singapore and Malaysia have agreed on the importance of ensuring reliable and adequate water supply from the Johor River.PHOTO: ST FILE

PUTRAJAYA • Singapore and Malaysia have agreed on the importance of ensuring reliable and adequate water supply from the Johor River as spelt out in the 1962 Water Agreement, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Both sides agreed to take the necessary measures to make this happen, PM Lee added at a press conference with Mr Najib.

Mr Najib said the Johor River Barrage project - to reduce salinity and increase the river's yield - will be fully operational by next March.

And while there were "some challenges", including the effects of climate change, that affected water supply, he said: "We have agreed to work closely together to make sure Singapore gets its share of water under the Water Agreement. We believe that by working together, we will find an acceptable solution."

Both sides are working together on projects like the barrage. The Johor River supplies a significant part of Singapore's daily water needs.

THE WATER ISSUE

We believe that by working together, we will find an acceptable solution.

PM NAJIB RAZAK


I am very happy that the Johor River Barrage is now in its final stages of completion. It is already making a difference and helping to improve the yield of the river, and our agencies are working closely together.

PM LEE

PM Lee said water is an important issue for both countries.

"We are happy that we have agreed on the importance of ensuring reliable and adequate water supplies from the Johor River as provided for in the 1962 Water Agreement and to take necessary measures in order to make this happen," he said.

"I am very happy that the Johor River Barrage is now in its final stages of completion. It is already making a difference and helping to improve the yield of the river, and our agencies are working closely together."

Both leaders were also pleased with the state of bilateral ties and would work to strengthen them.

Johor has seen water levels drop since early last year owing to drought and rapid development.

This year, water levels in the Linggiu Reservoir fell to new lows. Water stock there is at about 26 per cent now. Singapore water agency PUB is entitled to draw 250 million gallons of raw water daily from the Johor River under the 1962 agreement with Malaysia, which expires in 2061. In return, Singapore is obliged to sell five million gallons of treated water to Johor each day. But PUB this year provided Johor with up to 22 million gallons of water a day.

In a joint statement yesterday, both leaders expressed appreciation to the water authorities for their ongoing cooperation and urged them to continue this excellent working relationship.

PM Lee singled out PUB, Johor water agency Bakaj, and Malaysia's Ministry of Energy, Green Technologies and Water for taking "appropriate and timely measures to increase the yield of the Johor River".

Mr Najib also raised the issue of land reclamation works in the Strait of Johor and said Malaysia will continue to share data with Singapore.

"Singapore has received a lot of EIA (environmental impact assessment) reports from us, EIA data," he said, adding that it wanted more information on some projects.

Malaysia will use the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Committee on the Environment as a platform to share the data, Mr Najib said.

"Malaysia is committed to the Unclos agreement, to make sure we will adhere to the requirements under Unclos," he added, using the acronym for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Under Unclos, countries doing reclamation work that could have transboundary impact have to undertake an EIA and share the reports with affected countries, prior to the start of such works.

Correction note: In a previous version of this story, it was stated that PUB this year provided Johor with up to 16 million gallons of water a day. It should be 22 million gallons of water a day.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2016, with the headline 'Leaders agree to ensure adequate water from Johor River'. Print Edition | Subscribe