Johor resorts to cloud seeding
Shahrum Sayuthi, The New Straits Times 19 Mar 10;
JOHOR BARU: Cloud seeding operations have been started to tackle the current drought in central Johor.
State Energy, Water, Communication and Environment Committee chairman Tan Kok Hong said cloud seeding started on Saturday and will go on for a month.
It is being jointly carried out by the Bahagian Kawalselia Air Johor which coordinates water resources in the state, the Meteorological Department and the Department of Irrigation and Drainage.
“There will be 15 cloud seeding operations over one month,” said Tan when contacted yesterday.
Tan said the flights would be carried out based on the weather, suitable cloud formations and wind direction to target the affected water catchment areas.
He advised the public, especially those residing in central Johor, to use water sparingly until the dry spell ends, expected to be by the end of this month or early next month.
Bakaj director Idris Kaprawi said the cloud seeding was done by an independent contractor appointed by the Meteorological Department.
“The state government has allocated RM500,000 for the exercise in an attempt to improve the water levels at several dams and water catchment areas.
“So far, the past two seeding sessions faced problems because of the lack of cloud formation, but we will keep on trying ,” he said.
The aircraft used for the cloud seeding is based at the Batu Berendam Airport in Malacca.
State water management company, SAJ Holdings Sdn Bhd’s corporate communication head Jamaluddin Jamil said water levels at catchment areas in other areas of the state were under control.
“In central Johor, the Bekok and Chengok dams are below the critical level,” he said.
Yesterday, Bekok dam, which supplies Batu Pahat district, was at 9.92m. Its critical mark is 10m.
Chengok dam, which supplies Mersing, registered 4.14m, 0.56m below the critical level.
Jamaluddin said despite the alarming water level, SAJ Holdings could still manage the situation in Batu Pahat and Mersing without the need to ration water.
However, water is still being rationed in Kluang, the hardest hit district.
The water level at Sembrong Barat dam fell to to 8.11m, but still above the 7.4m critical mark.
The district’s other water source, Sungai Sembrong Timur, is the worst hit with a level 0.1m. The river’s critical level is 0.5m.
Perlis farmers told to delay sowing
The New Straits Times 19 Mar 10;
PADANG BESAR: The level of Timah Tasoh dam has declined by more than a metre.
State agriculture authorities have advised farmers to start their planting season at the end of next month instead of the scheduled end of this month.
State Department of Irrigation and Drainage director Nishad Mohamed Shaffy said the normal level of the dam was 29.1m but with the current extreme hot weather, it had now gone down to 27.9m.
“The current water level is sufficient for domestic use only but not enough for irrigation.
“This morning, we have informed the state government and relevant agencies about the situation. We suggested that they defer the planting season to the end of next month.”
The dam irrigates almost 3,100ha of farmland and supplies 54 million litres of drinking water every day.
If the situation continued, he said more than 385 farming families, especially padi planters, would be affected.
Padi-planting season causes rivers to run dry
New Straits Times 19 Mar 10;
ALOR STAR: The state’s padi fields are parched and rivers are running dry, but the current dry spell is not entirely the cause.
Muda Agricultural Development Authority general manager Datuk Abdul Rahim Salleh said the arid appearance in many parts of Kedah’s farming region was caused by water being drawn from waterways and padi fields for the first padi-planting season of the year next week.
“We have started pumping out water from the padi fields and waterways to allow farmers to prepare their land for the first padi-planting season.
“This is the normal practice this time of the year and because of the extremely dry weather, it is not unusual for one to find the ground bone dry and waterways reduced to a trickle,” he said when asked on the effects of the current dry spell on the state’s agriculture.
He said the first padi-planting season for the year in many parts of Kedah and Perlis would begin on March 25.
Rahim said there was ample water at the Pedu, Muda and Ahning dams.
“There is enough water in all our dams since we have stored enough during the wet spell last year.
“In fact, water from the dams is sufficient to irrigate our rice fields for the next two padi-planting seasons.”
Fires, haze and water shortages plague Sabah
The New Straits Times 19 Mar 10;
KOTA KINABALU: A host of problems has emerged as a result of the prolonged drought in the state.
Haze, bush and open fires, water shortages, dried up rivers and poor visibility have been plaguing the headlines recently.
An eight-car pile-up was also reported yesterday at the Beaufort-Menumbok highway at 7.30am, believed to be caused by hazy conditions.
No one was hurt in the incident involving trucks and a car but police have advised motorists to be careful and to switch on the headlights when travelling.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman has also called for water rationing for areas severely affected by drought, particularly Nabawan and Kuala Penyu.
Bernama quoted the state Water Department director, Ag Mohd Tahir Mohd Talib, as saying that the water situation in the state was manageable and supply could last until April or May.
He said the current situation was not as bad as the drought in 1997 but the hot weather was quite abnormal.
He also said so far, there would be no state-wide water rationing except for ongoing rationing in areas where water shortages normally occurred.
It was recently reported that about 500 villagers in Nabawan faced water shortages due to Sungai Penawan drying up, but Mohd Tahir said the district had been facing problems for quite sometime.
Villagers said they were turning to nearby rivers for bathing and cooking.
The situation is not expected to improve soon as Sabah Meteorological Department director Abdul Malik Tusin said that the El Nino phenomenon was expected to last until May.
“Luckily, the haze is not so bad as it is a localised source and not a transboundary haze. It is usually confined to areas where there is open burning.”
The Fire and Rescue Department has been kept busy putting out bush and forest fires, with 822 fires reported in the state up till March 17. This month alone saw 440 fires.
Dry spell not affecting supply and price of greens
Florence A. Samy, The Star 20 Mar 10;
PETALING JAYA: The supply and price of vegetables have not been affected by the current dry spell.
However, the Federation of Malaysian Vegetable Growers Association secretary-general Chay Ee Mong said the situation might change if it continued.
“There is no problem in Cameron Highlands as it has been raining over the last few days.
“But the effect will be felt if there is no rain the next week or for 10 days,” he said.
Chay, who is also the Cameron Highlands Vegetable Growers Association secretary-general, said farmers in Johor were feeling the effect as the rivers were drying up.
“Farmers have to irrigate almost daily due to the current hot weather. In Johor, the water is not enough.”
According to the Meteorological Department, no rain has been forecast in Perlis, Penang, Kelantan, Terengganu, west Johor and Sabah over the next week.
The dry spell is expected to last until May due to the El Nino phenomenon, which has brought drier than usual weather conditions.
Several dams and rivers have recorded low water levels including the Bekok dam in Johor, which has less than 1% of its water left.
Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas) said there would be no water rationing in the Klang Valley for now, although all seven dams had shown a drop in water levels.
In a statement, Syabas said an emergency response plan would be activated to tackle water shortage if the need arose.
“Rivers such as Sungai Labu, Sungai Langat and Sungai Selangor that supply water to treatment plants in Selangor also recorded lower levels but they have not reached an alarming stage.
“But if the hot and dry weather continues until May, it can cause river pollution levels to increase including higher ammonia content due to lower dilution.
“This can cause water treatment plants to cease operations because the tainted raw water cannot be treated. It will cause supply disruptions,” said Syabas.
Meanwhile, the Department of Environment director-general, Datuk Rosnani Ibrahim, urged the public to refrain from open burning or throwing cigarette butts indiscriminately.
Secondary water source vital in crisis
The Star 20 Mar 10;
KUALA LUMPUR: Harvesting rainwater and using groundwater are two ways to alleviate shortages in times of drought, said the Council for Water and Green Technology Professionals.
“A secondary water source provides more security, especially in times of crisis,” said its secretary-general Mohmad Asari Daud at a roundtable discussion on “Clean Water for Our Future” on Thursday.
Currently, he said, only 1% of the country’s water supply is from groundwater while 99% is derived from surface water.
He said that in Malaysia the quality of groundwater was generally better than surface water.
“The storage of rainwater should be encouraged as it can be utilised for cleaning purposes and watering plants at home,” added Mohmad Asari.
World Water Day falls on Monday and in discussing ways to obtain clean and an undisrupted supply, Malaysian Water Partnership chairman Datuk Syed Muhammad Shahbudin emphasised the need for an Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) system.
“There are 11 ministries as well as agencies and operators involved but they are not co-ordinated,” he said, adding that the IWRM system was not moving at the moment.
Other panellists at the discussion were Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association information secretary Zulkefli Muhammad and the Institute of Geology Malaysia’s hydro-geology expert Mohd Nazan Awang.
Malaysian Water Association immediate past president and Syarikat Air Terengganu’s former chief executive officer Datuk Wan Ngah Ali was the moderator.