Flash floods can be min­imised

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP -

MALAYSIA is lo­cated in the equa­to­rial zone and has a trop­i­cal hot-wet cli­mate. Its cit­i­zens are fa­mil­iar with tor­ren­tial rains. In fact, there are peo­ple who carry um­brel­las ev­ery time they go out of their houses.

In the past, as a gen­eral rule, floods dur­ing heavy rain were not a strange phe­nom­e­non. This was partly why tra­di­tional Malay houses were built on stilts.

How­ever, nowa­days, it is also fair to be­lieve that most Malaysians worry about be­ing caught in flash floods ev­ery time they leave their homes, although there should not be flash floods in built up ar­eas.

There has been town plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment con­trol. No one can un­der­take de­vel­op­ment projects with­out get­ting pro­fes­sional con­sul­tants and get­ting ap­provals of lo­cal govern­ments and state govern­ments.

Un­for­tu­nately, sev­eral ar­eas in Pe­nang Is­land were flooded on Oct 29 when there was a down­pour. In a short while, Jalan P. Ram­lee, Jalan Mesjid Negeri and Paya Terubong were hit by flash floods. Houses were flooded. Mo­torists were caught in the floods.

Since the last 50 years or so, there have been dras­tic changes in de­vel­op­ment con­trol and the build­ing of set­tle­ment ar­eas. There have been laws that de­mand that noth­ing can be built in the towns and ci­ties with­out sub­mis­sion of plans by pro­fes­sion­als and ap­provals also by pro­fes­sion­als.

There are many univer­sity grad­u­ates with pro­fes­sional de­grees, such as ar­chi­tec­ture, town plan­ning and en­gi­neer­ing. Many are work­ing as pro­fes­sional con­sul­tants. Sim­i­larly, the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, state govern­ments and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment have also re­cruited many pro­fes­sion­als as of­fi­cers.

In ad­di­tion, there are laws to reg­u­late hous­ing de­vel­op­ment. More specif­i­cally, hous­ing devel­op­ers have to en­gage town plan­ners, ar­chi­tects and en­gi­neers to pre­pare their plans. The plans pre­pared by the pro­fes­sion­als have to be ap­proved by their pro­fes­sional coun­ter­parts work­ing in the lo­cal govern­ments or state govern­ments.

If all devel­op­ers have abided by the re­quire­ments of the City Coun­cil of Pe­nang Is­land, all hous­ing es­tates, new or old would have ad­e­quate drains to al­low ex­cess wa­ter to flow to the sea.

Con­se­quently, there should have been no flash floods after two or three hours of heavy rain, like what hap­pened in Pe­nang Is­land on Oct 29 and on Nov 4, whereby Bayan Baru, Batu Maung and Per­matang Da­mar Laut were flooded.

Ac­cord­ing to some Pe­nang po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, on­go­ing flood mit­i­ga­tion projects, road widen­ing with drains not com­pleted and un­usual weather con­di­tions were rea­sons for the flash floods.

Has Pe­nang Is­land been de­vel­op­ing too rapidly? Over-de­vel­op­ment with­out suf­fi­cient rain­wa­ter dis­per­sal can be a fac­tor caus­ing flash floods.

Mak­ing things worse, the drainage sys­tem has not been ef­fec­tive be­cause too many Pe­nan­gites throw waste prod­ucts onto roads and into drains, so much so that the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties find it chal­leng­ing to keep the drains free of garbage.

It is also com­mon to see res­i­dents of houses along the banks of streams and rivers dis­card­ing solid waste such as mat­tresses, pil­lows and even bi­cy­cle frames into the rivers or along the banks. Even­tu­ally, the waste ma­te­ri­als ob­struct the flow of river wa­ter, thus caus­ing flash floods.

No rub­bish should be thrown into drains so as to ease the flow of rain wa­ter from drains to river trib­u­taries, rivers and the sea.

Un­til a thor­ough study is made, it is not pos­si­ble to pin-point which depart­ment or de­part­ments of the lo­cal author­ity have failed.

Gen­er­ally, the de­vel­op­ment con­trol de­part­ments have done their jobs well. Though the wa­ter pol­lu­tion of most rivers in Pe­nang Is­land, such as Sungei Pe­nang and Sungei Air Itam, has been re­duced, the main prob­lem is still the in­abil­ity to make Pe­nan­gites obey the law about the in­dis­crim­i­nate dis­posal of waste. As a re­sult, rub­bish, es­pe­cially plas­tic bags with waste prod­ucts are still be­ing dis­carded into the drains and river trib­u­taries.

There is lit­tle need to en­gage more drain sweep­ers. What is se­ri­ously needed is to en­force the law. Have more cam­paigns to teach Pe­nan­gites not to treat drains, rivers, and even the sea as dump­ing grounds for their waste. Hope­fully, along the way, vis­i­tors will also learn that the Pe­nang state and lo­cal author­ity of­fi­cers are strict in the en­force­ment of the laws, as in Sin­gapore.

Datuk Dr Goh Ban Lee is in­ter­ested in ur­ban gov­er­nance, hous­ing and ur­ban plan­ning. Com­ments: let­ters@the­sundaily. com

Jalan P. Ram­lee in Pe­nang yes­ter­day.

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