Crisis mitigation must be government priority.

Emmanuel Joseph

The government must do more to prevent floods. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, December 27, 2023.

THE flood season is once again upon us. We hear of damage to property, interrupted work, and even loss of lives.

What seemed like a distant east coast and East Malaysia problem has now crept into the west of the peninsula, even hitting towns that never saw as much as stagnated water pools just ten years ago.

One would be short-sighted to assign blame to a temporary or extraordinary circumstance like extra rainfall or unpredictable weather or the new favourite – clogged drains.

These are municipal issues that we pay tax for and should not have to tolerate.

It is the job of the authorities who charge good fees to building owners for a dozen or so tests and assessments before they are allowed to erect one in the first place.

What is the point of the many safety and security audits to enable the quick and safe evacuation of a building in distress, when there are near to no such exercises for a city block or town?

While Malaysia has been idling by and keeps referring to the Netherlands, China has started incorporating flood strategies into its new townships.

India and Bangladesh, countries relatively poorer than ours, too, have set aside hundreds of millions of their funds into these. Tokyo has built an entire network of underground waterways to divert any extraordinary rainfall.

Nearer to home, Singapore has introduced similar diversion tunnels, which is even more impressive considering a significant proportion of the island’s underground houses electricity, Internet and water lines, emergency evacuation and bomb shelters, military stores and a railway network system!

Meanwhile, our countless study tours by many local councils have yielded multiple proposal papers, “pilot” projects, Proof-of-Concepts (POCs), demonstrations, presentations and even budget allocations but what we have implemented so far have been stop-gap, targeted mitigative steps ranging from medium-tech early alert systems to medieval-tech sand bunds.

It is high time DBKL or similarly financially well-off local councils conclude a project in any one flood-prone area and replicate that across the country.

Councils need to get their priorities right; their existence first and foremost is to maintain municipal and town utility and accessibility.

Arts shows, medical facilities and air-conditioned walkways mean nothing if the car parks and basements routinely damage hundreds of cars while cities get cut off from the world every time it rains for an additional half an hour.

Richer condominiums and gated communities have resorted to buying their own pumps and digging their water catchment areas, but that could potentially worsen the situation for their surrounding neighborhoods.

Several steps can be taken immediately, the first being CCTVs and throwing the book at litterbugs.

Fines may not be sufficient - repeat offenders should be slapped with short prison stays, and we should introduce social merit points where low civic consciousness is rewarded by higher rates for social tax.

Corporate contributors should have their permission to do business permanently revoked. Officers or suppliers caught slacking off should be sacked alike.

A re-assessment of urban development plans should be conducted, and if any negligence is found, offenders should be made an example of.

These little mistakes and oversights have resulted in the mess we have today, and it will only worsen should these steps not be taken to mitigate and correct these within the shortest time.

This applies to both sides of the aisle as it involves nearly all state governments as well as the Federal administration.

A focus on infrastructure could also prove the solution to return the mainstream political discussion to issues that matte. – December 27, 2023.

* Emmanuel Joseph firmly believes that Klang is the best place on Earth, and that motivated people can do far more good than any leader with motive.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

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