Water cut in Klang Valley: Restaurant owners say operating costs went up

Workers from Restoran Kaya in Puchong Perdana preparing to carry large containers of water into their establishment. — Picture by Miera Zulyana.
Workers from Restoran Kaya in Puchong Perdana preparing to carry large containers of water into their establishment. — Picture by Miera Zulyana.

PUCHONG, Sep 5 — Restaurants in the Klang Valley still struggling to offset the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic were hard hit by the sudden water cuts over the past two days.

Many proprietors complained the disruption caught them (some 1.2 million water account holders were affected) wholly-unprepared and some felt that Air Selangor did not do enough to assist them during this difficult period.

In Puchong Perdana, Restoran Two One Two’s Ong Chuan Eng, 60, said they had been without water for two days.

“It has gotten to the point that the food stalls have begun layering their plates with plastic sheets, so the plates can be reused again without getting dirty,” he told Malay Mail.

His employees could be seen preparing drinks and pouring them into plastic bags tied with raffia strings in the manner of takeaway orders and serving them to dine-in customers.

“There has been no word from the authorities as to whether water delivery services will come by or not. I have not even seen one water lorry come down our street.

“Look, no one is saying they should not cut off the water supply if the need arises. But it ought to have been done with a bit of warning. You cannot expect us to carry on like this,” Ong said,

When told that Air Selangor’s water delivery trucks could be reached via call or WhatsApp, he said it would have been better if this was more prominently advertised to the public, as it was the first time he heard of it.

“Thankfully we have a large enough water containment tank above the restaurant. Since it rained heavily yesterday, we have just enough to get by… otherwise I would have closed the shop by yesterday itself,” Ong said.

He added that it would have been far less problematic if the disruption occurred earlier in the year during the height of the movement control order (MCO).

“At least then customers could only order takeaways, which meant less electricity and water usage.”

Ong was aware that this water supply disruption was caused by pollutants but he could not help worrying that this would affect his business badly

Restoran Two One Two proprietor Ong Chuan Eng said he'd been forced to serve drinks in plastic bags to customers. —Picture by Miera Zulyana.
Restoran Two One Two proprietor Ong Chuan Eng said he’d been forced to serve drinks in plastic bags to customers. —Picture by Miera Zulyana.

Restoran Kaya owner N. Saravanan, 36, also said there was no information from the authorities about water delivery.

“This has forced me to send my employees all the way to Puchong Intan (almost five kilometres away) with the van so they can collect enough water to keep our restaurant running. I am told that water supply there is still stable, since the area gets it from the Putrajaya dam.

“The lack of water means we have to close earlier than we usually do. We open at 7am and close at 10pm, but now we have to close at 7pm instead,” he added.

Unlike Ong, Saravanan’s water tank ran out early this morning and the visibly-unhappy man said he is unsure how long he can continue to run like this.

“The MCO in March was pretty bad for me, as I could only open until 5pm. I had just begun to recover financially the last few months and this happens, causing even more customers to shy away since they cannot have their regular meals,” he said.

Meanwhile at As-Salam Corner which is a stone’s throw away from Masjid Puchong Perdana, owner Azizah Mustafa was busy helping her employees serve customers.

It seemed like a normal day as there were more customers here than at the other two shops but the 53-year-old owner did not agree.

“By midday we started getting a small trickle back in our taps. Thank God there is a school canteen nearby where we can source for some water.

“It does not mean things have been easy since the supply stopped on Thursday. I had to send my staff out to buy 10-gallon water coolers which has dented my profits, but it is better than not operating altogether.

“The mood is generally downcast, as customers complained to me about being unable to bathe and cook which has forced them to eat outside more than they would like,” she said.

Azizah said it was Air Selangor’s right to cut off the water supply when necessary but when informed of the water lorries on call, said she disliked the fact that it was not automatic.

“It should come by regularly instead of having to be called. Do they think we enjoy having to use considerable manpower to go out and buy water when it could be better spent elsewhere?

“The other restaurants around us are not operating due to the disruption which means we become the focal point for the surrounding community. Yet I have to fork out more for plastic sheets and wax-lined papers for our plates. One way or the other, I am operating at a loss,” she said, adding that she refused to increase her food prices as it is unfair to her customers.

Although the water disruption was just two days old, the proprietor said the MCO period in comparison was more “bearable.”

“It is true that things were not easy then. But a bit of smart money-saving moves helped to keep us afloat then. However the disruption is proving to be more financially ruinous instead. At least during the MCO, I did not have to spend much.

“Now we have to run to various places to prepare cooking ingredients since we cannot do it in our own kitchen. At least the mosque’s management has been generous to provide aid from their huge water tank, but I cannot be expected to rely on their good graces all the time,” she said.

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