KUALA LUMPUR: Environmental groups have urged the government not to tap groundwater to meet growing water demand.
They cautioned against the cost involved and the harm from the process to the environment.
The Organisation for the Preservation of Natural Heritage (Peka) said the proposal by Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar is unacceptable.
Peka president Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said the government should focus on using natural resources in a sustainable manner.
She warned that tapping groundwater could lead to land collapse.
“Take China as an example, where groundwater is over-exploited to the extent that the water is pumped out of an area faster than it replenishes,” Shariffa told theSun.
“This has resulted in large sunken areas called depression cones.
“Those cones are enlarging every year in Shijiazhuang city, in the Hebei Province, due to the over-exploitation of groundwater.”
She said continuous usage of groundwater would lead to soil desertification, which has happened in Inner Mongolia.
“It will also quicken the infiltration of surface water and increase the risk of the groundwater becoming polluted. When this happens, it will be difficult to recover,“ she said.
Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia President S. Piarapakaran said it was a “cowardly” move to shift to groundwater when the authorities could not even manage surface water properly.
He cited examples of land subsidence problems faced by Thailand and Indonesia due to large-scale groundwater extraction.
“The government should get views of all stakeholders and a detailed Environment Impact Assessment is needed.”
Piarapakaran said Malaysia depends on rainfall to replenish groundwater and the country is already losing too much forest cover.
“A drop in forested areas will prevent the groundwater from replenishing.”
He said during a prolonged dry season almost a decade ago, Kelantan recorded lower groundwater yield.
Over the past 70 years, Kelantan has depended on underground water to cater to 1.4 million consumers.
He added that RM14 million was spent to solve Labuan’s crisis of water shortage in 2009 and it failed miserably.
About 85,000 people in Labuan who used groundwater, faced water shortage in 2009.
EcoKnights vice-president Amlir Ayat said groundwater extraction would be a costly and risky affair.
“This option is more a curative measure than preventive and is not going to solve the root issues which are water mismanagement and lack of commitment at all levels in conserving water resources.
“If we keep doing things in a curative manner, we will continue to have unnecessary problems and this could worsen,” Amlir said.