JOHOR BARU - The Johor state government plans to be self-sufficient in treated water instead of relying on Singapore, Johor Menteri Besar Osman Sapian said on Friday (March 1) according to Malaysian media reports.
"We have a plan to be self-sufficient but that is still in the planning stage and cannot be divulged at the moment," Datuk Osman said after attending a special session with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Cabinet ministers in Putrajaya.
His comments came a day after Tun Dr Mahathir urged Johoreans to speak up on the "morally wrong" water deal between Malaysia and Singapore.
Under the 1962 Water Agreement, which expires in 2061, Singapore is entitled to draw up to 250 million gallons a day (mgd) of raw water from the Johor River at three sen per 1,000 gallons.
Johor is entitled to buy five mgd of treated water from Singapore at 50 sen per 1,000 gallons. Singapore has said this price is heavily subsidised and below the cost of treating the water. Singapore has, in practice, been supplying 16mgd of treated water at Johor's request.
But Dr Mahathir said during the two-day meeting with Johor officials that "rich" Singapore had been benefiting from "poor" Malaysia on the water issue.
"I don't hear Johoreans talking about this," Dr Mahathir said on Thursday.
"They don't feel pressured and they are waiting for the federal government's negotiations on the matter."
Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said on Friday the bilateral water agreement is not about who is richer or poorer but about the fundamental principle of respecting the sanctity of agreements.
The words Dr Mahathir used were "strong, emotive words, no doubt intended to rouse public opinion", said Dr Balakrishnan in Parliament.
Meanwhile Mr Osman also said on Friday that the meeting had achieved its objective of increasing cooperation between the state and federal governments.
"Many ideas and views were presented during the sessions," he was quoted as saying by The Star.