Getting to the bottom of the floods

  • Behind The Cage
  • Friday, 09 Jan 2015

Anuar Ismail, 48, taking his three cats to higher ground after his house in Kampung Teluk Kepayang in Lambor Kiri, Perak was flooded.

THE recent floods have been described as the worst in Malaysian history.

Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Perak and some areas in Sabah were badly affected with 21 people reported killed and some 200,000 displaced. 

What are reasons for the floods? Is it due to God’s wrath, development and logging activities?  Could the floods have been prevented in the first place? At the moment, we can only speculate. 

Associate professor in environmental studies at International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) Dr Zaki Zainudin said that the current flood in Malaysia is an “extraordinary situation”. 

“The most prevalent factor in the floods is rainfall, and the rainfall this time around is so intense. 

“The perigean tide is also another factor because it blocks the flow of water going to the sea. And I believe that these two factors are the main reasons for the flooding,” said Dr Zaki. 

However, he says that proper simulations and computer modelling are required to ascertain the actual cause of the floods. 

“I’m not too quick to blame the environmental factors (such as deforestation) for causing the floods. We shouldn’t jump to conclusions. But I’m sure it has contributed in some way,” said Dr Zaki.

However, we should keep in mind that Malaysia has been a victim of floods as far back as 1886 when Kelantan experienced severe floods and gale-force winds. And this occurred before major development and deforestation, so I don’t think that development and deforestation are the sole reason for the recent floods. 

But we can’t help but ignore that certain areas in Malaysia are more prone to flooding than others, and it can be predicted with somewhat certainty that the floods will happen again. 

The question remains - is the Government doing enough? What is their plan? 

Dr Zaki believes that Malaysia is still lacking in the concept of an integrated catchment system, where there is good coordination within all agencies. 

“Mitigation measures can only work so much, and it incurs a cost to make it work again. It’s a vicious cycle. So why construct in flood-prone areas to begin with,” questions Dr Zaki. 

“Yes, I believe that engineering and structural control should be there. But there should be a paradigm shift and the Government should impose better management measures and good coordination between agencies,” he said. 

In light of the recent floods, Dr Zaki said that after the flood recedes it is important to ensure that the structural integrity of roads, buildings and hill-slopes were not compromised. 

I agree with Dr Zaki, I believe that the various agencies across Malaysia need to work together to better manage the flooding across the country. 

I believe that permits for development and logging need to be carefully monitored to prevent over development, especially in flood-prone areas.

I also feel that the Government needs to improve the drainage system in various states and increase enforcement to curb illegal dumping into rivers and drains to prevent it from clogging up. 

However, I can’t help but to think about the several villages and towns that have been suffering from flooding for years. Should they be relocated? If not, should a better emergency response system be in place?

I hope that the Government will conduct an in-depth research as to what is causing the floods and find sustainable ways to address the problem.

These questions and issues need to translate into preventive action to prevent future flood disasters from happening. 

Here’s hoping that 2015 will see less natural disasters and that it will be a good one for all of Malaysia.

What are your thoughts on the floods? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. 

>  The views expressed are entirely the writer's own


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Malaysian , floods , environment


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