It is time that Malaysian government took actions to tackle the flooding.
By Oliver Ward
Due to the flooding, Penang will be in a budget deficit of around RM667 million (US$159 million) by the end of the year. After the September floods, the government gave 7,000 victims RM400 (US$95) each. In November, 100,000 victims received RM500 (US$119) per household.
The government must accept responsibility
Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said, “what happened in Penang was beyond what we could have predicted”, he added, “the rain was so heavy that any town would have flooded.”
However, the rainfall for both September and November were as normal in Penang.
Source: Weather Underground
The rainfall for 2017 was even lower than 2015 levels. The Malaysian government failed to deal with common levels of rainfalls. It has not prepared for the flood defences.
NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) and residents have been objecting to dangerous hillslope developments. The developments are prone to flooding and mudslides, making them unsafe for residents. Developers were able to the undertake unsafe developments in light of inadequate regulations.
The 2016 antiflood measures failed to address flood prevention
21 people were killed in the 2015 flooding. In response, the Malaysian government allocated RM730 million (US$174 million) for flood mitigation projects in 2016 budget. The projects included six parts. The model included the creation of a flood relief fund; construction of wooden shelters; NGO training partnerships; increased environmental protection; a government insurance scheme; and a training and counselling centre for low-lying areas. None of these successfully dealt with the flood prevention issue.
The government has not made adequate preparations for drainage. The water drains into the sea, causing disruption when heavy rainfall coincides with high tide. This disruption occurred on both 4 and 5 November 2017.
Will the government improve prevention measures in 2018?
In response to the November flooding, the federal government announced the investment of US$1.01 billion in 16 flood mitigation projects for the start of 2018. This figure is a marked increase from the RM10 million (US$2.38 million) initially allocated for flood mitigation in the 2018 budget.
Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBAPP) will spend RM150 million (US$36 million) on a pipeline to transport water from Air Itam Dam to Teluk Behang Dam. The pipeline will help to relieve flood concerns caused by Air Itam Dam overflowing. Although, the Penang population will have to wait two years for the project’s completion.
Individual councils must follow suit and increase expenditure on flood prevention methods
Boosting regional flood defences should be a collective responsibility. State governments need to do their part too.
The Seberang Prai Municipal Council in mainland Penang has released its 2018 budget. Of the RM293 million (US$70 million) available to spend in 2018, RM9.1 (US$2 million) will go towards flood mitigation. This figure represents over 3% of government spending.
It is time for the government to confront the problem head on to put an end to the avoidable deaths and losses.