Alarmed by the impact of the recent floods that hit Penang on 15 September 2017, several residents associations and community representatives have gathered together to make a collective call to the state government of Penang and their elected representatives to, this time, take the situation of rainfall, floods and hill erosion very seriously.
The recent floods in Penang have exposed both the short-term and long-term causes as well as measures needed to reduce and solve the flood problem. The incidence of the floods in so many areas and the severity of the damage caused was shocking to Penangites, who had already been used to previous floods in the past.
This time around, the severity and damage caused was most alarming, which caused much hardship and frustration. Many communities were affected and in so many ways, including the following:
- one person lost her life;
- homes and even old folks’ homes were flooded and damaged;
- several hundred people had to be evacuated to relief centres;
- thousands were stranded in traffic jams;
- many cars were totally damaged, buried by landslides, washed away in waters or were stuck in mud;
- landslides and landslips in several areas and erosion of hill slopes; and
- the inability of many people to get to work.
This event and subsequent floods after that are indeed a wake-up call for serious and urgent action.
Some of the root causes of the recurrent floods in Penang can be attributed to the following:
- concrete jungle development increases surface run-off;
- hill cutting and hill-slope development;
- indiscriminate development and lack of open green spaces;
- poor drainage/clogging of drains;
- poor planning and oversight by the government; and
- increasing frequency and intensity of rainfalls due to possible changes in climate.
This is not a one-off event and is expected to recur if the authorities do not take preventive measures and deal with the root causes.
Flood mitigation alone is inadequate, and comprehensive and effective action is needed.
In fact, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Wan Junaidi said recently that “flood mitigation projects cannot stop flooding, but can only help to reduce the impact of the floods because many other issues also contribute to the problem”.
He also warned that the present rainfall data can no longer be used for flood mitigation projects because the rainfall pattern has changed in the last few years.
We therefore demand that the following action be taken:
- Stop over-development and the creation of more concrete jungles;
- Stop hill-cutting and hill slope development. This can be done by the state government by not approving any further hill-slope and hill land developments;
- Immediately amend the 2009 guidelines on ‘special projects’ to explicitly prohibit all development on hill land, except if it is for essential public services (to be undertaken by state government);
- Rehabilitate and cover existing exposed and barren slopes and spaces to prevent further soil erosion;
- Take stern enforcement, effective and deterrent action on those who clear land illegally or do not abide by conditions imposed to prevent soil-erosion (to be undertaken by the relevant authorities including the local authorities);
- Monitor hill slopes frequently (to be undertaken by the local authorities);
- Make a public declaration of hill slopes and areas which are not safe (to be undertaken by local authorities);
- Carry out more tree-planting and create more open green spaces;
- Clean up drains regularly to free them from clogging;
- Introduce local plans now so as to control planning;
- Ensure that persons in positions of power and responsibility in government are professional, honest, have integrity and experience and are held accountable for their actions; and
- Beef up the enforcement and accountability not just in government agencies but also in professional bodies, like the Board of Engineers Malaysia.
The representatives of Residents Associations and Management Corporations/Committees will also reach out to their elected representatives to urge them to act on the above demands and will hold them accountable for their actions.
This statement is endorsed by the following:
- Meenakshi Raman, Tanjung Bungah Residents Association
- Dr Ti Lian Geh, Taman Sri Rambai/Taman Lau Geok Swee Residents’ Association, Paya Terubong
- Manuel Nicholas, Management Corporation, Sunrise Garden Condominium, Sungai Ara
- Medalene Sim, Management Committee, Solok Kelicap, Sungai Ara
- Jeffery Ho, Taman Sri Nibong Residents Association, Sungei Nibong Besar
- Hor Cheok Weng, Management Committee, Mawar Apartment, Sungei Nibong Besar
- Nic Sim, Management Committee, Melati Apartment, Sungei Nibong Besar
- Ang Sue Khoo, Pykett Residents’ Committee
- Henry Loh, Management Corporation, Diamond Villa, Tanjung Bungah
- Terence Nathan, Management Corporation, Mar Vista, Tanjung Bungah
- George Lee, Management Corporation, Desa Embun Emas, Tanjung Bungah
- Dato’ Kee Phaik Chin, Residents Association of Jesselton
- Douglas Fox, Management Corporation, Taman Jesselton
- S Suppiah, Residents Association of Pantai Molek, Tanjung Tokong
- K Suthakar, Tanjung Court Condominium Residents’ Ad-hoc Group
- Soo Ying Hong, Desa Delima Residents Association, Bandar Baru Air Itam
- Choong Ewe Chin, Sri Impian Residents Association, Bandar Baru Air Itam
- Steven Leong Yik Foo, Desa Baiduri Residents Ad-hoc Group, Bandar Baru Air Itam
- Rama Velayutham, Treasure Ville Residents Association, Bandar Baru Air Itam
- Khoo Hock Kin, Fortune Court Residents Association, Bandar Baru Air Itam
- Haji Fadzil bin Hitam, Desaria Residents Association, Taman Desaria, Sungai Ara
- R Chandra Segar, Management Corporation, Vistaria Condominium, Taman Desaria, Sungai Ara
- Prof Emeritus D Gajaraj Management Corporation, The Cove,
- Alan Tan, Management Committee, Lavinia Apartment