Shift focus to what really matters

An aerial view of the flooding incident at the Kampung Nampasan area in Penampang, Sabah, last January.

GLOBAL warming is a problem that needs to be addressed by all nations worldwide, including Malaysia.

Sabah is also not spared from the effects of global warming due to developments and improper planning of projects.

One of the worst and frequent effects of these are floods.

Over the past years, areas like Penampang and even around the city have suffered from flash floods, mud floods and other forms of floods.

Some say the situation worsened after the 2015 Mount Kinabalu quake, which shook and shattered the grounds, resulting in sedimentation of earth, rocks, uprooted trees and other debris in rivers.

Rivers thus became shallower and murkier.

Ministers and officials have blamed this situation on the increasingly frequent floods in areas like Kota Belud as well as water shortages caused by clogged pipes that lead to damaged water treatment plants.

Floods happen after every downpour, disrupting the lives of many villagers who have to slowly adapt to the situation by altering their lifestyles. This includes building homes on higher grounds and buying speed boats for emergency use.

Assistance given by non-governmental organisations and government bodies are never enough for them to properly rebuild their lives, more so for those with no proper income.

Some don’t get any help because they are either too far off the grid or are ineligible for assistance due to their financial status.

As we know, mainly the poor and hardcore poor can get welfare aid but not all of them get aid.

Even those with jobs find themselves emptying their savings to clean up their houses after the floods and replace damaged items.

Insurance companies do not pay for such disasters, although some have now started introducing insurance packages that include flooding.

In September last year, Sabah saw one of its worst floods in years occurring in the Sugud area of Penampang, not too far from Kota Kinabalu.

Hundreds of homes were destroyed, with several deaths reported.

Rescue personnel such as firemen had a tough time getting to flooded areas due to geographical and safety reasons.

The worst part was, the floods in these areas — which housed dozens of villages — kept recurring over the next month or two.

Victims had not even managed to clean up or rebuild their homes before they found themselves facing another incident of flood, again and again.

Water and electricity became a crucial issue as the supply was cut off for quite a long time due to the floods.

The heart-warming part was that many people quickly turned to social media to highlight the matter and call for aid.

Many NGOs wasted no time in gathering volunteers and raising funds.

The NGOs got emergency help to flood victims on time, continuously for over a month.

They provided food, water and basic necessities like mattresses as well as used clothes.

One of them who had made an impact was media influencer Adam Shamil who single-handedly started a movement to help victims by coming up with plans that would benefit villagers in the long run aside from giving food, water and money.

This included having water tanks installed and purchasing several units of emergency boats besides extending assistance to neighbouring villages and fire victims, which he had not initially planned.

He explained that this was possible due to outpouring support from netizens who helped raise over RM220,000 compared to his initial plan to raise RM50,000 for the victims.

Many people trusted Adam to manage their donations.

They allowed him to do what he felt was useful for flood victims because he posted every single transaction.

The government also came forth to render assistance.

Yes, victims received financial aid from the government, machinery was sent in to help clean up the mud-inundated roads and homes but the situation was still far from okay.

Undeniably, the NGOs collectively seem to be doing much better in helping the flood victims.

Until today, many of these victims’ homes have not been totally cleaned as work is being done manually whereas heavy machinery is needed to do the job properly.

Sabah being a state rich with natural resources should at least enjoy basic necessities, including infrastructure.

However, that is far from the case here.

Everything is so expensive here, even a run-down house costs more than a decent-sized home in most Malaysian states.

Roads here are often described as hazardous to drive on, and recently dubbed “the moon on earth” by Sabahans due to the potholes.

Excuses made to look like reasonable causes for delay in implementation are repeatedly made.

Flood victims have gone from being hopeful to giving up waiting for government aid that truly makes a difference.

So, I say, instead of focusing on “futuristic” projects, the government should focus on providing people with the basics first.

The Sabah government should also relook at plans to construct a multimillion-ringgit sky train.

Instead, it should use the funds to fix infrastructure problems and provide what is necessary for Sabahans.

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