NOW and then we come across out of the box ideas to improve our lives. But this one, as gleaned from the headline of this column, is to me meaningful and doable, too.
Datuk Seri Dr Zaini Ujang, our internationally-acclaimed advocate of sustainable lifestyle, exhorted Malaysians to shower for not more than three minutes.
This is the most practical way for them to love and preserve the environment, he told a forum organised by Sinar Harian newspaper in Shah Alam last week.
Zaini, a former secretary-general of the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry, is a winner of many prestigious awards, the latest being the Tokoh Maal Hijrah 2019.
Regular readers of this column will vouch that water is a topic I have consistently written about since the start of the column in 2011.
And like Zaini, it’s something I’m most passionate about especially by highlighting the fact that Malaysians take clean water for granted and use it as if there’s no tomorrow.
The average individual usage of life’s most vital resource among Malaysians is arguably the highest in the world and the most glaring evidence of this is Selangor, our most developed state, where to make matters worse, the free water policy started by the then mentri besar, Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, in 2014 is still in force despite the state having undergone acute water supply cuts over the years.
Selangor must be the only place on Earth that has a free water policy, which if anything only encourages people to waste water. After all it’s free.
Back to Zaini, he told the forum: “Just ask ourselves, why must we spend more than three minutes for bathing? I mention three minutes because it’s easy as the usage of water is about 10 litres.”
A longer than three-minute shower means higher water consumption.
“The more water we use, and with population increase, we need to build more dams and to build dams we need to cut more trees.
“And therefore we also need more electricity at the treatment plants and this will increase carbon emission,” he said.
The big question he raised was over Malaysians’ commitment in preserving the environment which as evident everywhere is still low.
When was the last time you saw a clean river anywhere in the country?
Not even in Kuala Lumpur where the massive and expensive River for Life project is being implemented.
I have not seen one but if anyone has, please email me via this newspaper. I shall rush there and write about it.
Rivers are our main source of raw water for treatment plants and many a time these plants have to be shut down due to high contamination by factories run by people who for all intents and purposes should be categorised as “environmental criminals”.
In Selangor alone, millions of people have to suffer occasionally when clean water cannot be produced because of toxic raw water.
Earlier this year, the Sungai Kim Kim at Pasir Gudang in Johor went toxic causing health and environmental havoc and the closure of schools.
“What is our commitment towards loving and preserving the environment?” Zaini asked.
To him, it’s akin to talking to the hills when people couldn’t care less about the environment.
The best approach to this apathy is to educate society on environmental preservation with less emphasis on laws and regulations.
As he put it: “I think we are over focusing on regulations. In the final analysis, it’s not that easy for us to come up with the evidence concerning environmental offences. And even if proven and the offenders are brought to court, the court process takes too long and in the end, the impact is not felt.”
So the best approach is to accord premium value to our water, to preserve our environment.
On the issue of water per se, it is time for the Selangor government to review its free water policy to enhance public appreciation of its intrinsic value and this will go a long way to cut down wanton wastage.
This so-called free water provided to consumers is actually a heavy financial burden to the state government and the earlier this is realised the better.
A few billion ringgit has gone into this “welfare programme” since it began.
Because water is so essential in our daily life, no right-thinking citizen would mind paying for it because before it’s given free, it’s still the cheapest and most affordable of all our monthly utility bills.
No one asked for it in the first place but the populist move was implemented without considering the collateral damage to the environment and state’s finances.
Much of the world’s population is reportedly facing shortages of clean water. Spare a thought for this, too.
All of us should walk the talk on water and the next time you shower, please take heed of Zaini’s three-minute advocacy.