Malaysia: Penang state needs more rain to tide over El Nino

The Star 10 May 16;

GEORGE TOWN: The state is still not out of danger despite the rainy weather lately, said Penang Water Supply Corporation Sdn Bhd (PBAPP) chief executive officer Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa (pic).

“The Beris and Muda dams in Kedah are at a critical level while the two dams in Air Itam and Teluk Bahang on the island still need to build up their capacities.

“We need to make sure that the dams are full by the end of the year to get ready for the next year’s dry season,” he told a press conference at his office in Komtar yesterday.

Jaseni said the Beris Dam was at 26.4% capacity while the Muda Dam was at 32%, and the Air Itam and Teluk Bahang dams were at 51.8% and 53.4% respectively as of yesterday.

“We do not know how long the Muda and Beris dams will last. The Muda Dam is used for irrigation purposes while the Beris Dam provides water supply to the people.

“Kedah, Penang and north Perak are dependent on the Sungai Muda and the river is dependent on the dams when there’s no rain.

“We need to extract 1 billion litres of water per day from Sungai Muda to supply Penang consumers,” he said.

Jaseni added that raw water could not be released into Sungai Muda as Penang did not have a dam that could release water into the river unlike the Beris and Muda dams.

This was in response to the recent demands by farmers that PBAPP adjust or raise the Sungai Muda Water Scheme Barrage to stop water from overflowing into the sea.

“The barrage which was commissioned in 1973, is not a dam. Its main purpose is to prevent the intrusion of sea water from the Straits of Malacca into water abstraction areas along Sungai Muda.

“The barrage could not be modified or raised without proper engineering studies and if the structure was compromised, sea water would flow upstream and worse if it collapses, the river level would drop,” he said.

It was previously reported that a peaceful demonstration was held on Saturday at the barrage in Rantau Panjang, Kepala Batas, Penang, where over 100 farmers held banners urging PBAPP to upgrade the barrage.

The farmers claimed that the barrage needed to be altered to reduce the overflow which they said would ensure water supply to their padi fields.

El Nino appears to be subsiding, says expert
The Star 10 May 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The prolonged dry spell that was expected to last until June in Sabah appears to be easing off.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Climatology and Oceanography professor Dr Fredolin Tanggang said persistent rains in the state over the past few weeks indicated that the El Nino-induced dry spell that began in March was on the wane.

He said Malaysia would likely have to brace for heavier-than-normal rainfall by year-end, based on an impending La Nina event.

“I believe that conditions have rapidly returned to normal,” he told The Star, adding that this was obvious from the situation in the Pacific Ocean.

“The current condition shows warmer than normal conditions only in the central Pacific while the eastern part of the ocean appears to be slightly cooler,” said Prof Tanggang.

He said the cooler conditions in the eastern Pacific near South America indicated the initiation of a La Nina event associated with heavier-than-usual rainfall.

The sub-temperature in the Pacific Ocean showed anomalously colder conditions at depths of 50 to 200m from west to east across the Pacific Ocean, indicating the uplifting of thermocline, signs of an impending La Nina, Prof Tanggang said.

“Looking at the anomalous sub-surface temperatures I believe we are heading for a moderate to strong La Nina,” he said.

He said if La Nina occured, rainfall from June should likely be above normal.

These conditions will likely come to head with widespread flooding by the end of November and December and stretching till January for the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, he said.

Prof Tanggang said similar heavier-than-normal rainfall leading to floods would likely occur in Sabah and Sarawak in January and February.

Hot and dry spell to end soon
The Star 10 May 16;

PETALING JAYA: The hot and dry spell is nearing an end with the appearance of inter-monsoon rains. It is flooding, not bush fires, that the people must prepare for.

A look at the map of the Malaysia Fire Danger Rating System, under the “Fine Fuel Moisture Code” (FFMC), showed an improvement in most parts of the peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak which are categorised as low (marked in blue) and moderate (green) risks.

This is an improvement compared to February when nearly all parts of the peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak were in a “red” alert.

Red represents “extreme” – which indicates a very high probability of ignition and flammability of grasslands and bushes.

A check on the FFMC yesterday showed large parts of Terengganu and areas in Kelantan and Pahang marked in red but in Sabah and Sarawak, very little areas were covered in red on the map.

Fire and Rescue Department director-general Datuk Wan Mohd Nor Ibrahim said the situation was improving.

“I think the dry season is nearing its end, but we remain on alert. We are preparing for the year-end flood season,” he said when contacted.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department’s website states that the FFMC values are “ratings of the moisture content of litter and other cured fine fuels”.

It indicates the relative ease of ignition and flammability of fine fuels, as such the FFMC is used as an indicator of ignition potential or the potential for fires to start and spread in the area.

The department confirmed that the severe heatwave had eased off and was unlikely to recur in the near future.

It said the country will be in the inter-monsoon phase till the middle of the month and thunderstorms were expected in many parts in the country in the evenings.

“With the weakening of the El-Nino effect, high temperatures are unlikely to occur,’’ it said.

However, the department cautioned that localised haze could worsen if there was no control over open burning.

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