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Alternatives to building Kinta Dam

I refer to page ‘June start for Kinta Dam’ report which appeared in the New Straits Times on Feb 23.

The dam is being built across Sungai Kinta upstream for a storage capacity of 30 million cubic metres of water, enough for six months supply. The total cost of the project is RM250 million using a new construction method that has never been done before in Malaysia. It also reported that most of the current water supply is taken from Sungai Parit/Sungai Perak which are much bigger than the Sungai Kinta.

It looks illogical to find a new water source of supply unless all of Ipoh’s people can drink Sungai Parit and Sungai Perak dry. Even if that is the case, why do they need to store water for six months’ use unless there is a climate I have not heard? Do you need to stock up food for six months? As an old, retired engineer, I think I still can make some useful contributions to the engineering profession and benefit water consumers.

About 40 years ago, I acted as a consultant adviser to the contractor in the construction of the water treatment plant in Johor for the Singapore Public Utilities Board and later as the contractor in building the Upper Pierce Reservoir which can be seen when you play golf at the Singapore Island Golf Club.

About 25 years ago, our company also constructed the intake and the whole treatment system at Sungai Parit. Shortly after that, I took part in tendering for the water treatment works using water from the Sungai Perak at Bota. I think I know the water supply problem in Singapore and Ipoh well enough to make some suggestions.

1) In the last four decades, Malaysia did not allow Singapore to expand their water supply system in Johor and also did allow them to construct additional pipes across the causeway. Singapore do not have any new water source like Sungai Kinta and they solve their problem by deepening and enlarging all their lakes and ponds to increase storage capacity to cope with their increased demand and also maintain supply during dry spells.

The same two pipes across the causeway continue to carry water to fill up all the Singaporean reservoirs which have excess capacity to overcome a dry spell. In the same way, we can make use of the mining pools, eg, in clear water sanctuaries or other more suitable ones to avoid building the Kinta dam.

2) If the river bed is deepened or an approach channel is dredged deeper or a low weir is constructed across the narrow part of Sungai Parit, these may do the trick. This will encourage more flow into the intake giving enough water during the dry season.

3) I think it is relevant to compare the relative cost of taking more water from Sungai Perak/ Sungai Parit and building the Kinta dam. It may be the Kinta Dam costs more.

4) If all the above have already been considered unsuitable by the water engineer on the Perak Water Supply Department, he could at least save some money by recommending to build a smaller and cheaper dam to store less water instead of six months supply unless he believes that there will be a six-month drought.

Unfortunately, it may be too late to make any correction even if any one of my above suggestions is workable because the dam is nearly completed according to the NST report. In all fairness, they must not increase the water rate to cover this RM250 million mistake if what I said is right. The best judge should be the Singapore engineers who are responsible for solving their water supply problem or an independent consultant engineer who is not afraid to do the right thing.

I hope some sensible politician, members of the Board of Engineers, Malaysia, senior advisers to the Institution of Engineers, Malaysia and the Perak Menteri Besar will read this letter and take appropriate action.

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