Call to upgrade flood ‘readers’

Long Bungan in the Mulu National Park in northern Sarawak inundated by floods over the past week. pic by Willie Kajan.

MIRI: There is a need to upgrade the existing mechanisms in Sarawak that are being used to predict the surge of the king tide along the coastal shores and also the surge of water levels along interior rivers, according to Kidurong state assemblyman Chiew Ching Sing.

It was obvious from the flash floods that had hit various rural and urban locations in northern

Sarawak last week that the present facilities that were used to “read” the king tide and rising river water phenomenon had not accurately predicted the severity of these water surge, he said.

“It was clearly seen from the sudden flash flood and the intensity of these floods that we in Sarawak need to be better equipped to be able to read the signs of impending sudden floodings caused by the rising tides along the coast and rising water levels along interior rivers.

“The flash floods in Mulu was rather severe and lasted several days. The rivers there surged very high beyond their banks and at very fast pace.

“The urban areas in Bintulu also saw flash floods. Parts of Tanjung Batu near Bintulu town was affected by flash floods that came very suddenly. The present facilities used by the Meteorological

Department to read these signs of impending flash floods needed to be upgraded.

“The flash floods were made worse because of two factors – sudden heavy rain and swift surge in coastal tides and swift rise in river levels in the interior.

“It is time for every populated coastal regions and populated interior riverine settlements to be equipped with accurate mechanisms that can detect these water level surge before it actually happens so that residents can be forewarned and alerted.

“Sarawak is also being affected by worsening climate change, so we must be prepared and we must upgrade all our weather-observation facilities,” he said when commenting on last week’s floods.

Chiew said that though the floods here were not as serious as in the peninsula states, still there was a need for Sarawak to prepare for any eventualities.

Environmental watchdog group Borneo Resources Insitute Malaysia had also expressed concerns about the severity of the floods in the Mulu National Park that inundated several low-lying areas and riverine longhouses.

The institute’s coordinator for Sarawak, Raymond Abin, said that the Mulu floods indicated that the ecosystem there had changed and that this might have been caused by extensive loggings in the forests surrounding the Mulu park.

“Mulu is surrounded by Apoh and Tutoh (sub-districts) and Apoh and Tutoh are places where extensive logging projects are being carried out now.

“The logging operations there have been going on for more than 30 years already. Mulu is now suffering from the adverse impact of these environmental degradation and it is obvious that the flash floods in Mulu last week was a result of the soil degradation and increasing river siltation along those rivers that feed into the Mulu National Park,” he stressed.

Though the Mulu floods had receded since early this week, the state authorities should carry out a detailed ground study on why the floods there were so serious compared with past years, he added.

Last week’s floods affected Mulu, Long Bungan and Long Panai.

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