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5:23pm 05/01/2022
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PM’s flood mitigation plans

Sin Chew Daily

The late December downpours lasting for several days submerged a large part of Klang Valley as well as the East Coast states of Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan, resulting in 51 deaths and sending probably more than 100,000 people homeless, documented or undocumented.

Up this this Tuesday, storm alert has yet to be lifted and thunderstorms are expected to move southward towards Johor, Melaka and Negeri Sembilan. The roaring storm waters as seen from short videos are simply frightening.

When Klang Valley was ravaged by the most massive floods in over half a century last month, prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob resolutely set up a task force to be chaired by chief secretary to the government Mohd Zuki Ali, to tackle similar extreme weather events in the future

A task force for flood preparation? That sounds like just a short-term, temporary set-up to help the flood victims. We mentioned earlier in this column that while a near-term solution should focus on helping the flood victims, such tragic events are by no means incidental. As such, we need to draw up more long-term plans to fix our drainage issue in order to solve the problem once and for all.

Eventually, the PM summoned a special meeting on Tuesday and proposed to raise the level of protection and recurrence of drainage and coastal infrastructure design from 100 years average recurrence interval (ARI) to 200 years ARI. Simply put, it is the flood mitigation standard derived from the risk assessment based on aggregate loss exceeding probability (AEP).

If the enormous rainfall last December was a 200 years ARI event, that means its probability is a mere 0.5%, but that does not mean another heavy downpour of similar magnitude will not strike again within the next 200 years and that the annual probability remains 0.5%!

Given the country’s population growth pattern, urbanization trend, logging, real estate development in catchment areas, it is absolutely necessary for the government to raise the level of protection to 200 years ARI.

And raising the level of protection to 200 years ARI must not end only in words. We must have sufficient annual budgets to implement the necessary programs to ensure their success. The prime minister has first and foremost proposed to reinforce our existing drainage system and coastal infrastructure. As a matter of fact, there are simply too many things that need to be put into implementation because natural disasters are alive while infrastructure is dead!

For instance, dams, waterways and drainage system need to be unclogged annually while embankments and flood mitigation facilities regularly maintained. Commercial developments are strictly prohibited in catchment and protected areas as well as on slopes more than 20 degrees, among others.

In view of this, the 200-year flood mitigation project should constitute a major task for the human race to counter the destruction of natural calamities.

Firstly, the entire project takes time, not just eight or ten years. Secondly, it needs to be regularly maintained. We must not think that the work is done once the billions of ringgit of input has been made. Thirdly, new laws must be enacted and strictly enforced to stop unauthorized logging and destruction of soil preservation. Fourthly, Malaysians must be more disciplined and abide by the laws. We must not disrupt the integrity of our catchment areas which could give rise to immeasurable damages to the environment to be inherited by our children, by profiteering at the expense of the well-being of fellow Malaysians.

During the two-week COP26 summit in Glasgow last November, scientists worldwide issued an ultimatum on global warming and climate change, warning that extreme weather events would take place a lot more frequently and intensely in our world over the next decade.

The fact Malaysia’s 2021 year-end floods have extended to the new year is itself a major alarm bell for us all. If we remain indifferent to the issues of global warming and climate change, we can expect ourselves to experience more and more severe weather patterns in the years to come, making massive floods and droughts a regular climatic phenomenon in this country.

Sin Chew Daily published an editorial on COP26 (COP26: a climate summit for our children) in early November. Unfortunately, from the number of clicks, we found that not too many people were actually concerned about what Time magazine called the “most important global gathering on climate change in years”.

Apparently Malaysian individuals and businesses need to discharge their social responsibilities and care more about issues pertaining to our environment.

Where there is a will there is a way. Indeed, human wisdom and determination can absolutely defeat the nature’s destructive forces. But, do we really have that wisdom and determination?

If all we care is our own gains and interests, then all our plans will fail, including the PM’s ambitious flood mitigation project.

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