More floods in Sarawak sign of ecological distress

Roads in the outskirts of Miri inundated after flash floods hit following heavy rain last weekend. - Photo courtesy of Civil Defence Unit

ONLY two hours of heavy rain and there are already complaints of flash floods in Miri city centre, its outskirts and the suburban districts.The incidents of flash floods are getting too frequent.

Even the city centre is not spared, despite improvements to the drainage system.

One cannot help but wonder if these floods are the consequences of years of human activities, including opening up land and clearing trees and grassland.

The cost of this unmitigated human development in recent years is now showing up, as seen by the flash floods in Miri, situated in northeastern Sarawak.

And in the outskirts of the city, residential housing neighbourhoods that had previously never experienced regular flooding are now being inundated by severe flash floods, raising alarm bells as to why this is happening.

Last week, numerous parts of Miri and Bekenu sub-district were badly hit by up to a metre-high of floodwaters.

The Lambir and Niah national parks were closed down for safety reasons after parts of the forest were inundated by floodwaters a metre deep.

Villages in Bekenu, with about 2,000 people, were also inundated by the floods due to heavy rain that caused the nearby rivers to burst their banks.

Some schools were told to stop operations, with the students evacuated and told to go home.

A villager told StarMetro that the severity of the floods this time was a cause for worry.

“It is rare to see floodwaters reaching up to a metre in such a short time in this area.

“In past years, there was heavy rain but the flash floods were not so serious, only a few inches of water at the most.

“The rivers no longer seem to be able to cope with sudden downpours. They easily overflow their banks.

“Maybe soil erosion and siltation in these rivers have become severe already, ” the villager said.

The relevant authorities must check on these new flood hotspots to determine why these areas have become so badly inundated.

Last weekend, after floods hit Miri city centre, mayor Adam Yii admitted there was a need to do more.

“The financial allocations for such mitigation work needed to be increased, ” he said, adding that federal ministries should channel funds to the state and local councils for flood-mitigation projects.

The state government must relook urban and suburban projects that involve land clearing and cutting of trees in forests and grassland.

These natural features are important buffers that help prevent floods by retaining water.

The frequency of flooding now is a warning sign of ecological distress.

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Sarawak , Miri , floods , North View


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