Jungles key to stopping floods

A boat crossing a submerged road in Chenor, Pahang, yesterday. More than 20% of the forest area in Pahang have been cleared for development since 1989, leading to the economically devastating flood there. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Hasnoor Hussain, January 11, 2021.

THE weather is still blamed for the occurrence of natural disasters, such as the floods devastating some states now.

Although flood happens almost every year, what happened the past few years was different. The fast-rising muddy yellow water shows that human factor also contributes to the increase in the intensity and impact of the flood risk.

In fact, social-media users conclude that the floods, especially in Pahang, are the result of humans destroying nature for the sake of development and profit.

This is because of the uncontrolled forest clearing and logging activities, especially in Pahang and Kelantan.

Forests play an important part to prevent natural disasters, such as floods, droughts, landslides, pollution, storms and other physical disturbances. Uncontrolled forest clearing in the country has had a significant impact not only on humans, but also on the environment.

Universiti Putra Malaysia senior lecturer Associate Prof Dr Haliza Abdul Rahman said logging and changes in forest land use could increase the occurrence of natural disasters.

The Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences lecturer said forests play an effective role in controlling flood problems by covering the soil surface from erosion due to rain and holding back and delaying the passage of rainwater to streams and rivers.

“Forests are a natural ‘sponge’ in absorbing rainwater. This is because the structure of the forests, with tree roots of various sizes acts as a natural concrete network to hold the soil structure.

“When this role is eliminated, it is not surprising that when there is heavy rain, flood easily happens,” she told Bernama.

According to Haliza, with uncontrolled development, including large-scale deforestation, it will cause the rainwater to flow faster.

This is because among the functions of the forest is to hold or delay the flow of rainwater to the river., but when there is development involving deforestation, it will disrupt the natural process of the water flow and cause locations downstream to get large amount of water, thus causing floods, she said.

“The widespread deforestation in the highlands, which is happening now, not only destroys nature but also the ‘cloud forest’ which can result in loss of water resources.”

The issue of forest clearing to make way for development is not new, as in the case of Pahang when the Earth Observation Centre found that more than 20% of the forest area in the state had been cleared for development since 1989.

Pahang Menteri Besar Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail was reported to have said that 2,531ha of permanent forest reserves in Pahang had been illegally cleared.

As of June 2019, there are 2.5 million ha of forest in Pahang with 1.56 million ha gazetted as permanent forest reserves.

Meanwhile, environmental group Pelindung Khazanah Alam (Peka) president Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil called on the relevant quarters to stop blaming the natural phenomenon, including heavy rain, for causing the floods in the country, which resulted in damage to property and loss of lives.

“It is not due to rain or weather factors. As we know, at the end of the year, we have the northeast monsoon, which brings high rainfall sometimes.

“Big floods will not happen if we have enough forests to act as ‘sponge’ to control the flow of rain water. What is happening now is that the forests are being cleared, causing rainwater to flow along with the sludge and logging waste.”

As such, she urged state governments to stop using their forests as “automatic teller machines” (ATMs) or short cut for money.

She also suggested amendments to the law by placing land administration under the jurisdiction of the federal government. – Bernama, January 11, 2021.

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  • Rainforests have existed for millions of years and regulate the climate of the world as well as local weather. Deforestation not only affects one country because climate knows no boundaries. Destroying the eco balance here threatens the existence of human life in earth. Development cannot go on unchecked. Our lives depend on wise policies based on science.

    Posted 3 years ago by Malaysia New hope · Reply