News / Asia

Malaysia, Singapore Grapple With Prolonged Dry Spell

A sign and safety buoy mark the boundary of a partially dried-up pond, Singapore Botanical Gardens, Feb. 26, 2014.
A sign and safety buoy mark the boundary of a partially dried-up pond, Singapore Botanical Gardens, Feb. 26, 2014.
Reuters
Singapore and Malaysia are grappling with some of the driest weather they have ever seen, forcing the tiny city-state to ramp up supplies of recycled water while its neighbor rations reserves amid disruptions to farming and fisheries.

Singapore, which experiences tropical downpours on most days, suffered its longest dry spell on record between Jan. 13 and Feb. 8 and has had little rain since.

Shares in Hyflux Ltd., which operates desalination and water recycling operations in Singapore, have risen 3.5 percent over the past month.

In peninsular Malaysia, 15 areas have not had rainfall in more than 20 days, with some of them dry for more than a month, according to the Malaysian Meteorological Department. The dry weather is expected to run for another two weeks.

The Indonesian province of Riau has also been hit, with parts of the region wreathed in smog, usually caused by farmers setting fires to illegally clear land. Poor visibility has disrupted flights to and from the airport in Pekanbaru.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was due to discuss the drought at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday that would decide whether to declare a national emergency, according to state news agency Bernama.

On Wednesday, media said the Malaysian state of Selangor had won approval from the federal government to take over four water firms, with the dry spell forcing an end to a five-year feud over control of water resources.

The state will pay the firms, which include builder Gamuda and water services company Puncak Niaga, 9.65 billion ringgit ($2.94 billion) to their owners in compensation.

While some dry weather is expected at this time of year, the abnormal lack of rain is raising concern about the pace of climate change.

"The concern is that these uncommon weather events may be happening more frequently sooner rather than later," said National University of Singapore researcher Winston Chow.

Palm oil prices hit

Malaysia is the world's second-largest producer of palm oil and planters say dry weather lasting more than two months can hurt yields six months to two years down the line, affecting output and fueling benchmark Kuala Lumpur prices.

Concern the weather will hurt production has helped push up palm oil prices about 8 percent in February, setting the market on track for its biggest monthly gain in four months.

The lack of rain is also believed to have caused extensive damage to the rice crop.

In Singapore, the dry weather is being blamed in part for the death of fish stocks at several offshore farms. About 160 tons of fish have died in recent weeks because of a lack of oxygen in the water.

The Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department said it had got more than 7,000 calls about forest and bush fires nationwide since early February, five times more than usual.

Selangor, Malaysia's richest and most industrialized state, began limited water rationing on Tuesday as levels in its dams plunged to critical lows.

"We pledge that every consumer will receive water, but it will be rationed to ensure supply every two days," Bernama quoted state chief minister Abdul Khalid Ibrahim as saying.

"In a week, consumers will receive water for four days."

The state of Negeri Sembilan, near Kuala Lumpur, declared a "state of crisis" over the water shortage last week.

In Singapore, the Public Utilities Board has boosted the supply of recycled water, known as NEWater, and desalinated supplies, to keep up reservoir levels.

Singapore's national security concerns mean it has developed into one of the world leaders in water technology as it tries to cut reliance on imported supplies from Malaysia.

About 55 percent of Singapore's water is now desalinated or recycled, in line with an aim to be self-sufficient by 2061, when a 1962 agreement to buy 250 million gallons per day from Malaysia ends, according to the board.

The deal lets Singapore buy the Malaysian water at 0.03 ringgit ($0.01) per 1,000 gallons, and sell back treated water for 0.50 ringgit per 1,000 gallons.

Some experts say while Singapore is coping well with the dry spell, it needs to diversify its water supplies further.

"The expectation of the large increase of NEWater and desalination water may not be practical due to their much higher cost than imported water and catchment water," said Pat Yeh, assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at National University of Singapore.

Johor, the Malaysian state that borders Singapore, has been urging an early re-negotiation of the water deal, saying it is too advantageous to the city-state.

"The talks should begin immediately," Hasni Mohammad, chairman of a public works panel, told Bernama in a recent interview. "We have long been in a losing position."

You May Like

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid