2020 is the year Malaysia is expected to be in the exclusive club of developed nations. There is much economic statistics that can be used as a yardstick to measure our achievements.
Let us revisit the important elements that have silently supported our nation’s growth. Together, water, energy and the environment play an important role in developing Malaysia as a nation with a robust economy. Vision 2020 was a general aim that came without detailed targets and how to strategically reach those targets. More focus was placed on the social and economic aspects of growth.
Basic elements of sustainable development include people (social), profit (economy) and planet (environment). In order to have a balanced growth as a nation, we need to take into account the environment as a key player and strong partner. The Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (AWER) would like to highlight some key points that the government should consider to enhance Transformasi Nasional 2050 (TN50):
A CENTRALISED water management power system — raw water, treatment and supply of water, as well as wastewater discharge must be placed under the Federal Government. In a national-level survey conducted by AWER (using Department of Statistics’ sampling methodology), 72.86 per cent of Malaysians supported AWER’s suggestion to remove state governments’ power to water resources if they fail to protect water catchment areas;
WATER efficiency labelling and minimum water efficiency standard — to impose “static water efficiency” mechanism to improve water demand management;
UPSTREAM, midstream and downstream water resource development to reduce raw water stress; and,
POLLUTION reversal — an effective wastewater discharge standard based on pollution loading will be able to assist in pollution reduction as the carrying capacity of rivers are limited and overburdened due to high population density and economic activity density.
For the energy sector:
CENTRALISED biomass processing plants for biomass conversion, extraction and streamlining final output, which are vital to make economic sense and become a world leader in cutting-edge biomass solution. Malaysia has the highest potential in this aspect;
ENERGY Efficiency (EE) and Minimum Energy Performance Standard (MEPS) — MEPS
has been successfully implemented here. Expanding both EE and MEPS is vital to reduce energy use in electricity usage, transportation and industrial process;
PROFILED demand management — smart grid must be fully utilised to ensure detailed electricity demand profiling. Via such data, specific demand management strategies for specific consumers can be implemented; and,
ENERGY price stabilisation fund — energy prices are volatile and can be subject to cartel as Malaysia also depends on energy resource import. Currency volatility will also be a major factor that affects affordable energy resource supply. Therefore, it is vital for Malaysia to establish an energy-price stabilisation fund to help consumers absorb sudden shocks in energy prices. This fund is not a form of subsidy.
On climate change:
FLOOD mitigation — the rate of increase in rainfall pattern and flooding must be included in flood mitigation programmes to ensure these solutions withstand increase in flood occurrences;
DROUGHT and dry season management — the dry season will be a major challenge to Malaysia as we move forward beyond 2020. Dam designs must be robust and flexible. Build dams in stages to optimise capital expenditure;
FARMS in buildings — farms in buildings and nearer to demand zones must be implemented to mitigate food security risks. Coupling these farms with renewable resources and water recycling will enable sustainable and cost-effective farming;
LAND-USE planning revamp — rampant deforestation will pose a huge water security risk to Malaysia. Increase in population and economic activities mandate more protection for water catchment areas; and,
DEVELOPING a national resource stockpile — it is high time that Malaysia begins its national resource stockpile. Coal stockpile has been successfully carried out in each coal power plant, which reduces many risks. Resources such as crude oil, natural gas and metals contribute significantly to the development of our nation. A detailed mechanism must be developed to ensure we are able to manage our resources and replenish our resource outflow due to an export-oriented economy.
Water, energy and the environment are key pillars that we need to protect for the future generation. For TN50’s planning, a full chapter must be dedicated to these pillars.
President, Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia