Malaysia’s Health Ministry is drafting a new law aimed at ensuring clean, safe drinking water that meets World Health Organization standards throughout the country, Minister Datuk Seri Dr. S. Subramaniam said last week.
The draft law will be submitted to the Attorney General before being presented to the Parliament before the end of the year.
"Right now, the power of the ministry in ensuring that the water is safe for consumption is only limited to the source level, while matters concerning the processing and distribution of the water supply are under the state governments' jurisdiction,” Subramaniam explained.
"This new law will give the power to the ministry to carry out inspections on basic sources, as well as on the processing and distribution of water supply to ensure that the water is truly safe for consumption,” local news sources quoted him as saying.
Water quality has become a pressing issue in Malaysia after Selangor state used an old mine pond to supplement its water supplies during the drought earlier this spring.
A dry spell had forced authorities to implement several water rationing programs in the valley. To address the scarcity problems, the state pumped water from a disused tin mining pond in Bestari Jaya into the Sungai Selangor Dam, which supplies most of the water for the Klang Valley.
On May 2, a day after rationing was halted, researchers called on the state government to disclose the status and safety of the mine water used. The water was thought to contain high concentrations of heavy metals, making it unsafe for human consumption.
Dr. Yang Farina Abdul Aziz, head of the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Center of Water Research and Analysis, said that although the Selangor Water Management Authority (Luas) had claimed the water was safe, its assessment should not just be accepted.
"Mine water contains heavy metal ions. As a consumer, I want to know whether the water that I get is safe for consumption. To determine whether the mine water is safe, it should be analyzed by the Chemistry Department or the Health Ministry. We cannot take Luas' word for it,” she told the New Straits Times.
However, as of last week, information about the water quality still had not been made public. Klang MP Charles Santiago called on the state government to release the information or face a lawsuit.