KUALA Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) has been busy mapping out 90,000sq m of underground utility assets running underneath the Federal capital since 2009.
These assets include underground infrastructure like water and sewerage, gas, telco and electrical lines as well as the Integrated Transport Information System (ITIS). To put that figure into perspective, the area covers about 15 football fields.
But the recent spate of sinkholes, appearing after downpours, is a cause for concern for the local authority.
DBKL has had to deal with sinkholes occurring one after another within a short period of time last month.
According to Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Nor Hisham Ahmad Dahlan, the sinkholes were noticeable in older parts of the city where underground infrastructure was vulnerable due to age.
“The sinkholes are occurring in areas where the underground infrastructure is fragile and prone to breakage, such as old water pipes.
“We get blamed when things like this happen, but sometimes it is not our fault and some things are beyond our control, ’’ he said.
Last year three sinkholes appeared in several city roads within 48 hours, all due to soil movement.
Concerned over the series of sinkholes, Nor Hisham ordered an inter-agency study with utility companies to map out the numerous cables and pipes running underneath Kuala Lumpur.
The sinkholes have been attributed to old water pipes bursting due to stress from construction and constant rain.
“The sinkholes are appearing in older parts of the city where the infrastructure is easily 50 years old, ’’ he said.
While DBKL’s study with utility companies to map out the city’s underground reticulation system is still ongoing, it is targeted towards areas with new developments.
“The mapping we are currently doing is more towards newer development projects, in areas where there are Mass Rapid Transit stations and new housing projects coming up, ” he explained.
“These new developments depend on optimal functioning of underground utility systems like water, sewerage, gas and telecommunication lines.
“We have managed to map out a total of 90,000sq m of underground utility so far, ” said the mayor, adding that it involved some 60 new development projects in Kuala Lumpur.
DBKL still has another 179 more new developments projects to include in its mapping system.
“The data (map of underground utility infrastructure) we have only goes as far back as 10 years.
“However, sinkhole hotspots are from mature parts of the city where the reticulation system is easily 50 years old and the projects go as far back as the 1960s and right up to the 1990s, where there was no specific agency that was in charge of archiving of utilities.
“That is why there is lack of data on those utilities, ” said Nor Hisham.
He said that in the 1990s, the government appointed the Survey and Mapping Malaysia Department (Jupem) to compile and manage all underground utility data in the country.
When contractors involved in realignment work of utility facilities on road reserves faced many difficulties during construction, it spurred Jupem to establish a Utility Mapping Division in 2006 which developed an underground utility database called Pangkalan Data Utiliti Bawah Tanah Kebangsaan, better known as Padu.
But even Jupem relies on information from government agencies and utility companies when updating its data.
“Having the data will help us save time when something happens. We will know what caused the sinkhole and how to repair it, ” said Nor Hisham.
He added that it would save the city a lot of money too.
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