ENVIRONMENTALISTS are calling on Johor authorities to take quick and concerted efforts to address the worsening flash flood situation in the state capital.
They have suggested solutions and are asking for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to be included in mitigation plans as they possess the know-how.
Green Earth Society Johor adviser Joel Lawrence Jayasunthar said frequent flash floods were likely to happen with climate change, as witnessed in various parts of Malaysia over the past two years.
“I trust that the relevant agencies are already assessing the sufficiency and efficiency of our drainage system and are working towards upgrading the entire drainage network,” he said in an interview with StarMetro.
ALSO READ: Kota Tinggi hit by flash floods
Joel, who is also Asian Environmental Solutions Sdn Bhd director (technical operations), said a comprehensive study was needed to address flash floods in parts of Johor Baru.
The study, he said, should include details on whether the city needed a tidal gate to divert rainwater into the Straits of Johor, especially when high tide and a downpour happened concurrently.
He said the existing drainage in old parts of the city was struggling to cope with heavier rainfall.
“Flash floods which hit several parts of the city on May 25, Aug 2 and Sept 25, required the authorities to address the issue once and for all,” he said.
Joel said the relevant authorities must come up with short, medium and long-term solutions to tackle floods not only in the urban areas but also other parts of Johor Baru.
He said there was an urgent need to evaluate different options pertaining to water storage and conveyancing and to implement them without further delay to complement the existing drainage.
He highlighted that the sewerage system, especially in the old parts of the city, was more than 100 years old and no longer suitable because of the development in downtown Johor Baru and its surrounding areas.
“We cannot stop development from taking place but we need to have a balanced approach that results in a win-win situation for all,” he added.
ALSO READ: Victims of 2006/2007 floods in JB relate their experiences
Malaysian Nature Society president Vincent Chow said everyone had a role to play — from policy makers, government agencies, developers and NGOs to the rakyat.
“Otherwise, the best engineering solutions and drainage upgrades will simply be insufficient,” he stressed.
He said strict enforcement by the authorities was important to prevent environmental pollution, apart from educating people to take care of their surroundings.
He noted that the Johor government had, over the years, failed to include NGOs in programmes to educate the people on the subject.
Chow said environment-related NGOs could act as the ears and hands of the government.
“This way, the government can get our feedback and suggestions to improve and sustain the natural environment,” he said.
He added that different perspectives could help counter what he claimed were often slanted reports on the environment by government departments.
Chow said more funds were also needed by NGOs to educate the public and deter them from throwing rubbish into rivers that were the main source of raw water supply.
He said their indiscriminate act not only polluted the water but could also clog the water bodies and it was one of the factors which could lead to flash floods such as that happening in Johor Baru.
Continuous financial assistance, he said, was important for NGOs to create better awareness of environmental issues among the people.
“So far, there is no help in funding from the state government for NGOs’ activities.
“We are not against development but Johor needs to strike a balance between progress and a sustainable environment for the people,’’ added Chow.
Johor Baru mayor Datuk Noorazam Osman said Johor Baru City Council (MBJB) had embarked on a flood mitigation project last month which was part of the medium-term plan to address flash floods in the city.
The RM5mil project is taking place along the Sungai Chat basin starting from Larkin Indah to Kampung Mat Amin, he added.
It involves installing six water pumps and constructing nine weirs along a 5km stretch of the 8km river as the stretch is more vulnerable to flash floods.
A weir or low head dam is a barrier across the width of a river that alters the flow characteristics of water and usually results in change in the height of the river level.
Weirs are also used to control the flow of water for outlets of lakes, ponds and reservoirs.
Noorazam said six water pumps would be installed at Sungai Chat house pump, Surau Tambatan, Malay Village Restaurant and Jalan Kampung Mohd Amin.
The weirs, he said, would be built at the upstream of the river starting from the Teachers Education Temenggong Ibrahim campus until the Tanjung Nakhoda development site.
“We are expecting the project to be completed in six months,’’ he said.
Noorazam said effective from January next year, MBJB would only approve development plans if the developers agreed to build flood retention ponds and plant trees before starting their projects.
“If they fail to do so, we will not give the green light to them and they cannot start the project,’’ he said.