Measures against flooding must include the halting of deforestation, says environmentalist Irshad Mobarak.
Irshad, who is the President of the Ecotourism and Conservation Society Malaysia, said deforestation and land clearing were two of the main causes of flooding in Kelantan and Penang.
He was commenting on a report that the bulk of government funding for flood mitigation projects was expected to go to Kelantan. Another RM150 million has been allocated for Penang.
“Forests are like sponges,” he said. “They absorb and store rain and release the water into streams and rivers in small amounts.”
Without forests, he said, the run-offs would be much greater and this would be exacerbated in coastal areas when tides were high.
He added that it was crucial to protect all remaining forest areas, reforest all river corridors and open spaces near rivers and replace non-essential concrete structures with greenery.
“The public can do their part by planting trees in their housing estates or in their gardens.”
Mahyuddin Ramli, a housing and development expert at Universiti Sains Malaysia, said mitigation efforts had to be coupled with enforcement and adherence to by-laws.
He said flooding in many areas was caused by the blockage of drains and the consequence of drainage systems being outdated in design and capacity.
He explained that with rapid urbanisation and deforestation, the amount of surface run-off and the speed at which this made its way to drains had increased.
“So the problem is that we have drains designed to cater to the amount of run-off 10 years ago but this is not suitable now.”
Hence, he said, immediate flood mitigation measures should centre on reviewing and improving existing drainage systems.
In the east coast, where flooding is an annual occurrence, Mahyuddin said more bunds and artificial canals to channel water quickly to the sea should be built.
However, he added, enforcement of by-laws pertaining to development and construction as well as waste disposal was crucial to ensure the success of mitigation efforts.
Yesterday, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar revealed in the Dewan Rakyat that the government had allocated RM400 million to tackle flash floods next year.
Source : Robin Augustin@FMT Reporters Online