Sewerage Systems

The Evolution of Sewage Treatment in Malaysia

As societies moved from nomadic cultures to building more permanent sites, the concern over waste (solid and wastewater) disposal became an important concern. It has been an issue that has been dealt with many different ways and knowledge has been lost and regained. When groups were living as hunters and gatherers, the natural decomposition dealt with refuse and human wastes naturally. As cities developed other mechanisms were necessary to address waste issues. What we must understand "until recently, wastewater sanitation focused on minimising health risks, primarily infectious diseases. More recently, the scope of wastewater management issues has broadened to include chronic health risks and environmental concerns" (Burks & Minnis, 1994:1).

When Malaya reached independence on August 31, 1957, the sewerage system left by the colonists at that time consisted of various types of toilets including latrines. The sewerage system was almost non-existent at that time. Following the independence and formation of Malaysia in 1963, sewerage systems such as Individual/Communal septic tanks Imhoff Tanks, Oxidation Ponds and Mechanical Connected Systems were introduced by the Government of Malaysia. These systems were expected to achieve the goal of improving public health.

However, the management undertaken by the authorities at that time was not holistic and the increase in population contributed to the pollution levels of rivers and drainage systems, negatively impacting the quality of the environment. The Government of Malaysia enacted a special act, the Sewerage Services Act 1993, which was passed by the Parliament in June 1993. The Act 508 mandates the Federal Government to take full responsibility and control over the development, management and regulation of sewage management nationwide.

At this time, the birth of a national sewerage company that manages sewerage services is comparable to other utility companies. Indah Water Konsortium (IWK) Sdn Bhd began operations on April 2, 1994 and the following years became a turning point for the utility company, especially in discharging responsibility for sewage management for Malaysia.