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6:15pm 29/12/2021
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Man-made disaster

Sin Chew Daily

In Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, it is written that the highest form of human character is like the water, which nourishes all things but will never fight with them for its own interest. The kindest man will constantly offer a helping hand, keep his promises, and harness his ability to get things done right. And because he has the merit of not fighting with others for own interest, he will never incur public wrath for getting into trouble.

Lao Tzu compared the noblest human character to water, but since the water will never fight for its own interest, why did it submerge last swathes of land and displaced hundreds of thousands of residents in eight different states lately? How can we explain that?

It is actually quite simple: We never appreciate water, and are fighting with it for more land! We don’t even allow the water to stay where it can take a breather and rest! As such, whenever the water level gets slightly higher, it will have nowhere to go but overflow the banks, hence the disastrous floods.

Although floods are a natural disaster, more often than not they are hastened by human negligence, ignorance, and greed.

The recent floods have brought to light some very important message that low-lying areas are prone to floods, while buildings erected on hill slopes are in danger of collapse due to storm-induced landslides and subsidence.

Already three places in Selangor, including apartments in Shah Alam, Bangsar Indah and Seri Duta 1 are classified as structurally unfit for human habitation. A check of the prices of Seri Duta 1 reveals that the condominiums sell for over RM1.2 million or nearly RM700 per square feet. Many people may not afford such a luxurious house in their lifetimes, but a heavy downpour is quickly wiping out the more well-off buyers’ lifelong real estate investments and savings.

We can see how serious the recent floods are from the videos posted on social media as well as news reports. But the landslides and subsidence that followed the weekend downpours have served as a stern warning to us all that even though residents living in highrise apartments can be spared from the fate of having their homes submerged in water, they are nevertheless at risk of suffering even bigger losses due to the collapse of their buildings.

We have no idea how well the soil and water conservation in and around these three highrise communities has been carried out, but we can easily see from pictures that Seri Duta 1 condominiums were indeed built on a hill slope.

As a matter of fact, there are so many condominiums and apartments built on slopes or flattened hill tops all over Klang Valley. If slope preservation has not been appropriately maintained by the developers, a disaster could ensue after a heavy downpour.

A building under construction without approval from the environment department in Tanjung Bungah, Penang, collapsed on October 21, 2017, killing 11.

According to the state government gazette, no construction projects should be carried out at altitudes more than 250 meters above sea level on more than 25% slopes. The thing is, the housing project’s developer flouted the rules and didn’t care at all!

December 11, 1993, Block 1 of Highland Towers in Ampang, KL, collapsed due to “soil liquefaction”, killing 48.

Other than buildings on hill slopes, buyers of seaside or lakeside properties should also be wary of soil liquefaction risks. To address this problem, the building’s foundation has to be deep enough on solid rock, but how many Malaysian developers will actually do that?

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