Concerns aired over Forest City water supply

Johor politician warns of water crisis if project does not source for its own supply

ISKANDAR PUTERI • A Johor politician told the state assembly yesterday that the Johor government had told the developer of the Forest City project to source for its own water supply.

Tengku Putra Haron Aminurrashid Tengku Hamid Jumat, an assemblyman for the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, was quoted by Bernama news agency as saying that if Forest City does not get its own supply from desalination or by other means, it could spark a water crisis in Johor.

This was the first time that the issue of how Forest City would get its water supply was raised, with the government assemblyman using unusually blunt language.

The project involves the raising of four man-made islands totalling 1,386ha in the Johor Strait facing Tuas. It is majority owned by China's Country Garden Holdings. Its other shareholders are the Johor government and Johor's Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar. When fully completed, it is meant to house some 700,000 people.

Datuk Tengku Putra said the project, when completed, would require over 600 million cubic metres of water daily - almost equal to the amount supplied daily to the city of Johor Baru and the neighbouring Pasir Gudang district.

"I understand that the state government has conveyed this decision (of the water supply) to the developer. Forest City has to draw water from a desalination process or through other mechanisms deemed fit," he added.

"This will allow the state government to accord priority to domestic households," he said, adding that rumours were rife that Forest City would obtain its water supply from the state's main water company SAJ Ranhill.

He told the state legislature, as reported by Bernama: "If there is truth in the rumour, then this just goes to show the developer's irresponsible attitude and total disregard for the state government's clear directive to source for its own water supply."

He added that Johor's 3.6 million residents should not suffer at the expense of the developer's profit-oriented motive which could spark a water crisis.

He also said he is concerned that SAJ Ranhill may compromise on domestic household supply.

"I am worried that this can create a very serious water crisis if the issue is not delved into deeply," he was quoted as saying.

Mr Tengku Putra urged the state government to take control of SAJ Ranhill via a mandatory takeover for fear that it may fall into the hands of a foreign party. He did not elaborate.

He suggested that the state government, which had cash reserves of close to RM4 billion (S$1.31 billion), acquire SAJ Ranhill from its majority shareholder Ranhill Holdings. "It's possible that the major shareholder may sell SAJ Ranhill to a foreign party. If that happens, we will lose control of not only our water industry, but also our national sovereign asset," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2017, with the headline 'Concerns aired over Forest City water supply'. Print Edition | Subscribe