SMART Tunnel, wayward rain


KUALA LUMPUR: The Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel, better known as the SMART tunnel, was built to prevent floodwaters from rising in Kuala Lumpur by channelling all the water to two designated catchment ponds.

So, why are there still floods in the federal capital every time it rains?

It has to do with the fact that the rain is falling in areas outside the SMART tunnel’s coverage – and the drainage system in these areas are poor, says SMART’s first chief operating officer Mohd Fuad Kamal Ariffin.

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According to the SMART tunnel website, the tunnel’s coverage areas include Masjid Jamek, Lebuh Ampang, Jalan Melaka, Dataran Merdeka, Dang Wangi, Lebuh Pasar and Dayabumi, which comprises about 45% of Kuala Lumpur’s flood-prone areas.

“Whenever flash floods occur, people are quick to point at the SMART tunnel. In reality, flash floods which occur in areas outside SMART’s coverage areas are due to unmaintained drainage systems, among others.

“It is also important to look at the maintenance of drainage systems in these areas,” he said, adding that the strength, integrity and durability of the tunnel depended on how often it would be used in channelling water.

“Each time water is channelled, it is not only the (tunnel) structure that is affected but also the related equipment used for channelling and diversion. Hence, the structural integrity of the tunnel and related equipment must undergo maintenance and inspections periodically,” he said.

SMART is a 9.7km-stormwater bypass tunnel, starting from the Klang River in the north of the city to the Kerayong River in the south. It is Malaysia’s longest tunnel and works to divert floodwaters and alleviate traffic jams.

Since it was opened to traffic in May 2007, the tunnel has diverted floodwaters 40 times and averted about RM1.4bil in public damage.Despite the promising nature of future SMART tunnels, Mohd Fuad said there were many aspects to ponder.

“It is important to consider the correct alignment and design of any future tunnels, along with the rainfall pattern and climate change. The surrounding development should also be well planned,” he said.

Mohd Fuad, who was COO from 2007 to 2016, said it would be costly to build another SMART tunnel. However, he suggested that areas like Bentong, Temerloh and Mentakab in Pahang could have SMART tunnels as long-term flood prevention measures.

“The tunnels built there should be designed solely for storing and diverting stormwater,” he added.

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