I REFER to The Star report “Flash floods wreak havoc in PJ” on Jan 25, on evening downpours that caused flash floods in several parts of Petaling Jaya, Gombak and Sungai Buluh, leaving houses and cars submerged and resulting in traffic crawls.
Flash floods are a perennial problem in the Klang Valley. Although there were no casualties, commuters and motorists suffered serious inconvenience and damage to their vehicles, resulting in financial losses.
Obviously, the main cause of flash floods in the Klang Valley is poor drainage and clogged drains. Rapid development is taking place, with new infrastructure and buildings coming up daily, but worksites are poorly managed.
The silt traps at many project sites are poorly maintained and as a result, sediments and debris from construction activities clog drains nearby, leading to flash floods following downpours.
Property developers and contractors should strictly observe the Urban Stormwater Management Manual for Malaysia – the drainage design guideline by the Drainage and Irrigation Department.
This is a guide for erosion and sediment control during earthworks, as well as installation of gross pollutant traps along drainage channels.
Sadly, a lack of supervision by the relevant authorities tends to perpetuate a culture of poor maintenance, not only at construction sites but also the city’s drainage in general.
Despite our rapid economic progress to attain high-income-nation status in less than five years, our civic consciousness is still lagging.
There are Malaysians who have no qualms about throwing rubbish into drains, leaving them clogged up.
Indiscriminate dumping of rubbish into drains by roadside stall operators is a nationwide problems. And some street cleaners make it a habit to sweep dirt and debris into the outlets of roadside drains.
These poor habits and maintenance culture, in addition to weak enforcement and inadequate federal and state budgets for maintenance, have resulted in clogged drains that are cleaned regularly and broken drains that are not being repaired.
There is an urgent need for a relook at the city’s drainage so that further improvements can be made.
This requires financial allocations for preventive and mitigating measures, which include risk assessments of flash floods, construction of urban drainage infrastructure and strict enforcement against irresponsible members of the public, building contractors and hawkers.
With construction taking place in various parts of the city, the authorities must come down hard on irresponsible contractors and builders who pay scant attention to the protection of the environment.
The authorities must especially act firmly against those who flout building by-laws and the Street and Drainage Act.
Habitual offenders must be made to do community service as a form of penalty.
The authorities should not hesitate to take stern action against the public or petty traders who dump rubbish into drains.
Ongoing awareness programme should be conducted and the public must be responsible in taking care of the environment.
The Government must be prepared to invest in drainage improvement in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya as well as other flood-prone areas.
With proper planning and investment in sustainable urban drainage, we will be able to not only prevent flash floods in cities and towns throughout the country but also portray a positive image among foreign tourists.
The time has come for the government and the private sector to see to the emergence of a new mindset which gives emphasis to the development of a strong maintenance culture.
Unless drastic action is taken to deal with the causes of flash floods, more damage can be expected in the future.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE