Pipemaker Fitters calls on govt to address funding gap in fixing country's water pipes

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KUALA LUMPUR (May 28): Fitters Diversified Bhd is calling on the government to come up with a solution to raise the funds required to overhaul the water piping system in the country.

Its managing director Datuk Richard Wong pointed to news reports that highlighted that over 42,000km of old asbestos-cement (AC) pipes need to be replaced to reduce leakages and water wastage.

"We used to hear from the ministry, that in order to replace the old AC pipes, it requires a funding of RM60-70 billion. In fact, the minister said last year they needed around RM150-160 billion to have a holistic solution for the water industry for the whole of Malaysia," he told reporters after the group's annual general meeting (AGM) here today.

"Interestingly, we were told they are short of money and are now agreeable to look at private funding if possible. But we could not work out yet how the private funding can happen.

"They (the government) should come up with some form of private funding initiative to speed up the process of meeting this funding requirement. Because it's a shame — a lot of the existing pipes cause a lot of wastage because the pipes are leaking. And all those water that are leaked through the pipes are treated water," Wong added.

Pipe leakage is among the main causes of non-revenue water (NRW), besides theft, and is a factor in low water reserve margins. NRW is treated water that is produced but is "lost" before reaching consumers.

Wong said it is high time to replace the existing pipes as the wastage worked up to billions of ringgits of wasted treated water every year. So he said it is better to address the problem as soon as possible.

"These are actual needs of the country. They need to implement this infrastructure. Why talk about highways, railways, and all the other sophisticated things when the basic thing like water is still facing problems?" he quipped.

For Fitters Diversified, Wong said the group has invested heavily on its pipes manufacturing and distribution division. He is optimistic the rising number of water infrastructure projects in the country will benefit the division.

"Generally we are a pipe manufacturer. Our job is to sell pipes and send water to people. But because we are experienced contractors, we have been encouraged to also participate in some of these projects. So we are seriously looking into it and are actually building quite a strong team of engineers now to get ready to participate in water-related infrastructure projects," he said.