The authorities have been urged to act quickly to prevent flash floods after several parts of Johor Baru city were inundated following a downpour on Aug 2.
Green Earth Society Johor advisor Joel Lawrence Jayasunthar said the existing drainage network, especially in the central business district, was struggling to cope with heavier rainfall in recent times.
Frequent flash floods, he said, were likely to happen with climate change, as witnessed in various parts of Malaysia over the past two years.
Joel said there was an urgent need to upgrade the drainage network while also considering other mitigation measures such as floodwater storage and conveyance.
It is important not to just focus on downtown Johor Baru but also look at upstream catchments to assess increased contribution into the drainage and riverine systems, he stressed.
He warned that while budgets and costs for implementation were a major concern, the tangible and intangible losses from flash floods could not be understated.
Efficient monitoring and warning systems must be put in place to prevent further loss of life and damage to property, said Joel.
“We need to make a concerted effort to preserve and safeguard our catchment areas, our forests and river buffer zones.”
He added that efforts must involve policy-makers, government agencies, developers, non-governmental organisations and the public.
Johor Malaysian Nature Society vice-president Vincent Chow said blaming heavy rain and high tide each time flash floods hit Johor Baru was unacceptable.
“The authorities are overdependent on the water pumps that often malfunction,” he said and noted that the flooded areas were all low-lying developments.
Over the years, he pointed out, there had been a lack of studies on the impact of tidal storms and heavy rainfall as well as the need to increase land levels through reclamation.
Chow said there was also a probability that sea levels at the seafront had increased due to land sinkage brought on by waterfront development projects.
“Without any annual records of sea levels at waterfront development sites, the authorities can only blame the rain,” he said.
He urged the authorities to adopt proactive measures in addressing the flood issue.
Among the areas affected in the Aug 2 flash flood incident were Hospital Sultanah Aminah, Kampung Mohd Amin, Jalan Sungai Chat, Persiaran Abu Bakar, Jalan Kolam Ayer, Jalan Ayer Molek, Jalan Stulang Darat, Jalan Tun Abdul Razak and Jalan Tebrau.