Misconceptions about lightning protection

A LETTER published in another paper recently by “University Student” shows that misconceptions about lightning protection are a growing problem in this country since they affect the general public and Malaysian engineering professionals.

Some of these misconceptions are so serious that public safety is adversely affected when buildings have been repeatedly struck by lightning even after modern lightning protection systems (LPS) have been installed.

The student claimed that his house suffered a direct lightning strike, which left cracks in the outer wall and toasted the TNB fuse, meter, electrical wiring and home appliances.

However, his description of the event suggested that the lightning might have struck the TNB cable near his house and the current had entered the residential wiring via the TNB fuse.

Part of the lightning current might have flashed into the masonry and this caused cracks in the wall.

Had the lightning directly struck the house, it should have left a large hole in the roof and might even have started a fire at the wooden rafters and ceiling-mounted electrical wiring.

The student also blamed large trees in his neighbourhood for lightning incidents that occurred to his house and those of his neighbours.

This is another misconception since large trees do not attract lightning at all. In fact, the tall trees may even have spared houses from direct lightning strikes since they partially shield nearby lower objects (houses) from lightning strikes if the latter is within the tree’s conical protection zone.

Misconceptions about lightning held by the general public are an old problem since this situation resulted from popular folklore and from inaccurate information given by non-experts.

For example, the misconception that metal can attract lightning was again raised in a safety guide issued by the Malaysian Meteorological Department when it discouraged the public from handling metal objects and tools during a thunderstorm.

Scientifically speaking, lightning is not attracted to any metal or non-metal object, not even a lightning rod.

The purpose of a lightning rod is to act as a low resistance conductor when it intercepts a lightning flash so that the large current does not damage the building fabric.

However, the existence of misconceptions about lightning found in books and journals published by Malaysian universities is something that the government should be very concerned about since public safety is adversely affected.

This misconception has made it easier for Malaysian engineers and the public to believe that lightning rods can attract lightning and that some lightning rods can attract lightning better than others.

Hence, for the past 25 years, the country has become a dumping ground for non-conventional (non-standard) LPS that do not comply with the national and international lightning protection standards.

These non-conventional LPS, which go by fanciful names, have already been studied in detail and rejected by western lightning protection experts and standards since 1995.

Since 2001, SIRIM has adopted the international (IEC) lightning protection standard as the new Malaysian standard. This standard firmly rejected all types of non-conventional LPS.

The latest version of the standard, MS-IEC62305, was endorsed by the Science, Technology and Information Ministry in 2007 and it contains a simple Malaysian-made lightning rod placement method that can intercept more than 95% of lightning strikes if applied in full.

On the other hand, studies conducted by Czech and German lightning experts suggested that the ESE lightning rods can only intercept up to 65% of lightning strikes at the most.

This explains why most highrise buildings in Malaysia have been repeatedly struck and damaged by lightning if they have been installed with ESE lightning rods.

ZA Hartono
Kuala Lumpur

Revamp SPAN before it is too late

ASSOCIATION of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (AWER) applauds the commitment given by the minister of water, land and natural resources to speed up restructuring of the National Water Services Industry.

As we move to the end of the 11th Malaysia Plan, we notice our national NRW level is still about 30% since 8th Malaysia Plan. High NRW is lost revenue and inability to cater to more treated water demand. Delay in the restructuring is another contributing factor for high NRW levels. SPAN’s (National Water Services Commission) target of 25% national NRW level by 2020 will not be achieved as not much effort was really put in place to address this serious matter since its inception in 2008.

To add salt to the injury, NRW projects are placed under a redundant Water Supply Department. The National NRW Reduction Action Plan pushed by AWER must be reactivated to ensure treated water is not wasted due to inefficient management of NRW. Every percentage drop in NRW is availability of treated water for consumers.

SPAN was formed due to failure of the Water Department and Sewerage Services Department to carry out their duties. These agencies were to be shut down once SPAN was fully operational by 2008. The Sewerage Department has overlapping functions with Pengurusan Aset Air Berhad (PAAB), SPAN and Indah Water Konsortium.

The Water Department has overlapping functions with PAAB, SPAN and water operators. There should not be any attempts to reduce the functions of PAAB, SPAN, Indah Water or water operators to justify the existence of the Water Department and Sewerage Department. Both departments must be closed down and their staff absorbed by other agencies. A full audit of the projects under the departments must be carried out before the shutdown. Closing down redundant agencies will reduce the government’s operational expenditures and this is in line with government policy.

Questions have been raised over the Sewerage Capital Contribution Fund. We urge the auditor-general to audit the fund and publish the findings.

Just like the water services licensees, PAAB is regulated by SPAN. Unfortunately, this is not really the case. When project tenders are called, state representatives must sit in the tender award committee. This is important to ensure the state’s concerns are addressed. Once projects are completed, it is the state government that will pay the leasing fee via their water operator.

SPAN must also audit PAAB’s operation to determine cost to tariff via leasing fee. There should be a benchmark method developed and deployed to ensure financial sustainability of PAAB and water services licensees are protected to ensure successful restructuring of the National Water Services Industry.

We urge the minister to drop appointments from non-field experts as commission members of SPAN. At the moment, the water services sector in Sabah and Sarawak is not regulated by SPAN. Therefore, there should not be representatives from Sabah and Sarawak as commissioners of SPAN. Rules must be tightened to prevent any misuse of power or position by commissioners.

To make the water services industry sustainable, IWK must be broken into state-based entities and merged with water operators in respective states. SPAN and IWK are reluctant to implement the final part of the National Water Services Industry Restructuring. Without the final piece of the puzzle, the water services industry will fail. Further delay will also increase the cost of restructuring and dampen improvement of the water services industry’s infrastructures and services.

SPAN’s tariff setting was designed to be transparent to show the public and business community the cost of water services and how the tariff will be affected by these costs. Unfortunately, SPAN used the cost-plus method (a lazy way of setting tariffs) to set the tariff. This method will pass more cost to the consumers and does not promote efficiency of water services. Tariff setting needs to be based on cost audit and benchmarking. There was also interference from ministry officials in SPAN’s operation previously. We urge the natural resources minister to address this issue swiftly.

Incompetent officers must be removed to ensure treated water supply and sewerage services are not affected. Being involved in SPAN’s operation since its inception, it is disheartening to see SPAN deviating from its original role. The National Water Services Industry Restructuring and Water Services Industry Act model will boost Malaysia as one of the best examples in the world of water services with affordable tariffs. Unfortunately, incompetence plagues this sector and denies Malaysia its rightful place in this sector. We urge the minister to reform SPAN and purge the incompetence.

Water is life.

Piarapakaran S.
President
AWER

More to affordable homes

“GET cracking on affordable homes” (Off the Cuff, Nov 9) refers. “Affordable homes” have become the new marketing strategy for developers trying hard to sell their properties under the affordable homes schemes whereby the selling price is around RM500,000!

But the real questions for buyers to consider are location, public transport, schools, hospital and job opportunities.

Please learn from Singapore’s HDB where they have built new townships with all the necessary amenities like schools, public transport link to MRT, shops and supermarkets.

I urge our Housing Ministry to take a ride on our MRT from Sungai Buloh to Kajang to look at how many areas that are suitable to build more affordable houses either in the new areas or through redevelopment.

For example, look at Kota Damansara, so many of the 5-storey walk-up flats built by PKNS decades ago are really run down. They are not healthy and conducive environments for residents. Why not come up with a big plan to redevelop the areas with modern satellites townships to provide better housing facilities to the existing residents and new residents.

And provide public transport links to the MRT station either with buses or monorail.

Please bring more affordable housing schemes near to the markets instead of building homes far away from the markets.

Yong Kim Thai
Petaling Jaya

Of starting and stoking fires

I FIND it incredulous, to the point of being angry even, that there are still people who choose to be in an almost perpetual state of denial. As a taxpayer, I do expect that money spent must be for the nation’s good.

Certainly, like the many millions of Malaysians, I was riled up with the long and continually expanding list of revelations on the charges against various individuals. Topping the list are the top two heads of the previous government. It continues to be mind boggling.

I start each day wondering what else will be revealed. Who else will be called in for questioning. Who else will get to wear the orange suit. And what more abuses of authority will be revealed.

Will it be a never-ending story? Heaven forbid.

Justice must take its course and must prevail. I am glad the knots are being tied and pieces of the jigsaw are now being firmly put into place.

However, it does not cease to amaze me that in spite of the evidence staring at our dumbfounded faces there are still the pleadings of “I did not know”, “I was not aware”, blah blah blah. Then there are the laughable “excuses” to “explain”.

And of course, the ultimate statements: “My conscience is clear … I did it to save the nation.”

At the moment California is fighting wildfires. And it occurred to me to relate that to the aforementioned statement. That “rationale” can be likened to someone who maliciously started a forest fire for his own nefarious reasons.

Then when the fire began to rage, he got some friends to steal some fire engines and other equipment from several fire stations, and furiously tried to put out the fire, which by then had caused untold damage.

When accused of stealing the fire engines and other equipment the arsonist’s reply was, “I did it to put out the fire, and to save the forest”, when in fact he was the arsonist who started and stoked the fire. And he wanted to play the hero when caught?

Another “fire” that some people seem to enjoy starting and stoking is one which can be easily fuelled by sentiments.

These are the fires sparked by futile and totally unnecessary debates and arguments or sensitive issues such as race and religion.

Especially so when the debates and arguments are politically motivated, and addressed to particular galleries.

We are seeing how distorted interpretations of religion in some countries have resulted in heinous treatment of fellow human beings; torture, killings and ethnic cleansing, all supposed to be in the cause of religion and race. In the global context it is an almost daily happening.

There continue to be those who simply want and must enforce their own beliefs and convictions on others. They regard those not in line with their thinking as the “enemy”.

Regardless of the fact that all religions preach moderation, doing good, being compassionate and humane, and subscribing to good universal life values and principles, there are those who choose to misinterpret, self-interpret and act in the most irreligious ways.

Islam, for example, does not teach Muslims to be divisive and fractious. Islamic values are indeed universal values as invoked in the Surah Al Kafirun in the Holy Quran.

Say: O disbelievers (of Islam).
I do not worship what you worship.
Nor are you worshippers of what I worship.
Nor will I be a worshipper of what you worship.
Nor will you be worshippers of what I worship.
For you is your Religion. And for me is my religion.

Is that not crystal clear? Why make religion a source of contentious divisiveness when it actually guides us towards a peaceful society of diverse peoples who should be respecting each other?

Worse still, why inject religion into political discourse? Preach the good values that religion teaches us to hold on to. There will be less crime, less social problems and people in authority will lead by good example and function with strong integrity.

They will not have to start forest fires because they know it is wrong.

As a country with such diversity of race and faiths, Malaysia’s resilience should not and cannot be continuously “assaulted” by unproductive and negative debates on race and religion.

Let us be good Malaysians. Do what is right and beneficial to society and the nation.

Let our respective faiths guide us with the principles of life that clearly show right will always prevail.

We are all the creations of the almighty God. We live in His keep. Let us not play God on this earth.

Each of us needs to strive to be as good a Malaysian as we can be. We do not need to be our brother’s or sister’s keeper.

We go to face our Maker alone. We are each responsible for our own sins. We do not drag others together with us.

So please, do not start and stoke any fire. And give the unacceptable excuse, “I did it to save the forest”. In other words to “save” after mindlessly triggering the havoc and causing fractiousness.

The Malaysia moving forward must not be held back by parochial and xenophobic mindsets, and people driven by greed for what power and authority can bring. Sejahtera Malaysia kita.

Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

Disappointing party moves

TIAN Chua’s call to PKR members to close ranks and reward Rafizi with posts merely shows how he, probably like the rest in PKR, think the public are foolish.

PKR has consistently disappointed, whether in its Kajang move, in Azmin absconding as MB of Selangor, in the fractious infighting to replace him, in their president vacillating on women’s issues and in its own clownish, so called democratic, election farce.

Neither its president or Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim could show leadership when the positionless Rafizi took on Azmin, their own party man with a national role to fulfil.

Instead, the challenger went to town to say he had the endorsement of Anwar over his own party’s second most senior minister.

If there had to be a contest, it should have been for the president’s position as the incumbent is waiting to be shown the door.

Neither the PKR president or their election coordinator even tried to explain why their election process descended into chaos.

Their “explanation” that the Jalau membership increase of 13,000 in a day reflected democracy only incriminates them.

In the circumstances, Tian Chua’s call to reconcile is a joke, all we can see is tensions building up within.

As a party, PKR has disappointed at every critical juncture when they should have shown leadership.

It is worrying that their soon to be leader, Anwar, would be leader of our nation after showing so little leadership in his own party.

I feel they will disappoint again when Anwar moves up and his self-declared “chosen” man then flexes his muscles to our collective detriment.

Maniam Sankar
Kuala Lumpur

Free Proton from state support

I AGREE with comments made to caution our government regarding the third national car, as the risks are high given the limited size of the domestic market and the advancing technologies in industrial countries which are beyond Malaysia’s capacity to compete. If there is a proposal for a third car project, let it be a private venture with no government or GLC involvement.

Malaysians have supported the first national car, Proton, with high tariff protection for many decades, resulting in car prices in Malaysia being higher than overseas. Car tariffs in Malaysia are the second highest in the world. As prices are high, many young people get into debt when buying their first car, especially those earning low salaries.

If domestic prices are in line with international prices, cars would be more affordable for low-income earners.

There was a plan under the National Automotive Policy (NAP) to progressively reduce the tariff protection on cars to create a competitive environment in the industry.

But after the initial reduction of tariff, the plan met strong resistance from politically-linked groups, claiming that the NAP would result in loss of jobs for thousands of Proton factory workers and engineers and that several ancillary businesses related to the car industry would go out of business.

Political sensitivities made the NAP difficult to implement indicating that protection, once given, becomes sticky to remove even though Proton is no longer owned by the government. It is now owned by MRCB-Hicom, a public company. Proton continues to expect government financial support for its R&D claiming that this was promised under the NAP, a never-ending story of reliance on the government to survive the competition.

Thankfully, Proton has been restructured with a foreign partner from China, which is a global player in the car industry and has the technology and the track record to make it into a successful partnership.

As Proton is getting ready to go international with the foreign shareholder, the government should free it from state support. Let us hope the government will make the joint-venture company operate in the free market and that this will result in lower prices and more choices for consumers.

The third national car should not claim the infant industry argument to get market protection. Whether the project is producing a conventional, an electric, or energy-saving car, if it is not commercially viable as a private venture, it is not good enough for the economy.

Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim
Kuala Lumpur

Budget 2019 is prudent and pragmatic

THE Budget Speech by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng could be described as “prudent and pragmatic”. It can also be called “the people’s budget”.

It’s one of the most challenging budgets to design but it came out well, especially for the poor.

The budget theme

The theme was aptly described as ‘Credible Malaysia, Dynamic Economy, Prosperous Rakyat’.

Indeed, the budget has credibility in being mildly expansionary to keep the economy moving forward, rather than contractionary in a way that could be seen as recessionary.

This budget strategy will also sustain dynamic economic growth and higher employment.

The fiscal deficit

The deficit will consequently rise to 3.4% for next year. This reflects a dynamic budget that is not bound by rigid thinking. This is commendable.

However, the deficit has to be monitored closely so that it does not expand too fast too soon, making our economy vulnerable.

The increase in operational expenditure by US$259 billion or 10.93% over this year and the rise of the development expenditure by US$54.7 billion are bold and even daring measures that call for close supervision against corruption, wastage and leakages.

RGPT

This Real Property Gains Tax will help to raise revenue from those who can afford it.

The Excessive Wealth Tax is also welcomed as those who are wealthy should help to provide the poor with more allocations to improve their welfare.

The rise in cost of living aid (BSH) is also a pragmatic measure as we cannot afford to have our poor, who earn less than RM2,000 per month, to live from hand to mouth.

Pensioners and minimum wages

The increase in pensions are laudable although the increase of just another RM59 in the minimum wage will be disappointing, as more could be given.

Conclusion

Budget 2019 has been challenging to prepare but the outcome has been pragmatic and people-oriented.

We don’t know the real impact on inflation due to this expansionary budget. But the expansion is necessary to maintain economic growth and well being.

The budget focus has been on enhancing the welfare of the B40 and this is good.

The budget has provided for more affordable housing as well and all these measures strengthen the notion of a ‘people’s budget’ or a rewarding budget in return for the people’s support during the 14th general election.

I only hope that fiscal and financial integrity is enhanced in the implementation of this good budget.

Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam
Chairman
Asli Centre for Public Policy Studies

Mustapa should vacate his seat

FORMER Umno stalwart Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, who has defected to Bersatu, has been described as “a leader with good morals, integrity and a clean image”.

Indeed! The first thing any members of Parliament should do after they have resigned from the coalition under which they stood during the GE14 would be to vacate their seats because they were elected based on their coalition affiliation. It was for that very reason that Umno and Barisan Nasional were rejected at the GE14.

MPs forfeit their seats either when they leave the party/coalition, switch parties or are expelled.

Isn’t there supposed to be a new political culture under the Pakatan Harapan government? The hatred for party hoppers was prevalent in the DAP for decades.

It had to be the fiercely independent and principled Karpal Singh who stood out to condemn such crossover capers when his own coalition leaders tried to execute similar ruses.

Although Karpal Singh is no longer with us, his stirring condemnation of unethical crossovers of members of Parliament should be the benchmark against which to judge party hoppers.

PH leaders ought to honour the memory of the late Karpal Singh by reaffirming the principle he held so fervently and demand that all these members of Parliament who have left their party/coalition vacate their parliamentary seats forthwith.

In the same vein, PH members of Parliament should make it their priority to legislate an anti-defection law at the next parliamentary seating. They may know that in India, for example, an Anti-Defection Act was included in the Constitution of 1985 and sets the provisions for disqualification of elected members on the grounds of defection to another political party.

Kua Kia Soong
Suaram Adviser