Malaysia: 'Development reduces floods in Penang'

BALVIN KAUR New Straits Times 7 Oct 14;

GEORGE TOWN: BRUSHING off criticism that overdevelopment is the main cause of the floods in Penang yet again, state Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said contrary to popular belief, development has actually mitigated the floods.

He said when the council received an application for development, it would study the existing drainage and irrigation systems in the area before making the necessary changes to accommodate new development.

The changes included building new drainage pipes or upgrading existing ones.

“This project and infrastructure development go hand in hand,” he said at Town Hall here yesterday.

On Friday, many thoroughfares on the island — including Jalan Scotland, Jalan Transfer, Jalan Macalister, Jalan Gurdwara, Jalan Anson and Jalan Mount Erskine — were flooded following a downpour.

The floods, which reached waist high in certain areas, also caused massive traffic congestion ahead of the long Hari Raya Aidiladha weekend.

In an immediate reaction, Chow had said the floods were caused by unprecedented rainfall as a result of climate change

He also dismissed claims that the floods were caused by overdevelopment on the island.

It was reported that Penang Barisan Nasional chairman Teng Chang Yeow refuted Chow’’s reasoning and cited the numerous development projects on the island as the main contributing factor.

He said the areas affected by flash floods had expanded over the last few years, with places that had never experienced floods being affected this time around.

Teng said the floods were a manifestation of uncontrolled development, overdevelopment and excessive hill cutting.

He claimed the infrastructure was not developed in tandem with the projects, contributing to the worsening situation.

Teng said the upgrading of infrastructure had no proper planning, causing traffic congestion.

Chow, however, denied Teng’s claims, saying it was not true that development had led to the flash floods.

He said the state government was working on completing the state drainage and irrigation masterplan to better tackle the flood issue.

“We are handling the studies and surveys on a district-by-district basis.

““The Northwest district masterplan was completed last year.

“The Central Seberang Perai district masterplan is about 50 per cent complete, the South Seberang Perai masterplan’’s funding was just approved, while the North Seberang Perai and NorthWest district masterplans are in the pipeline.”

Chow said the masterplan would also come in handy when approving projects, as the council could refer to the masterplan of specific districts to see what improvements were needed.

‘Flood plains nearly wiped out’
Phuah Ken Lin and Predeep Nambiar New Straits Times 8 Oct 14;

GEORGE TOWN: SAHABAT Alam Malaysia (SAM) has rubbished the DAP-led state government’s claim that ongoing development would mitigate flash floods in the state.

Its president, SM Mohamed Idris, said yesterday rapid development, which involved hill cutting and natural flood plains being turned into concrete jungles, had contributed to the problem.

“Floods resulting from surface water runoff have increased as many areas become urbanised. Development over the years has caused natural flood plains in Penang to become almost non-existent.”

Idris was commenting on state Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow’s claim that ongoing development in Penang would mitigate flash floods.

Chow, who ruled out overdevelopment as the cause of flash floods in the state, had instead blamed the problem on unprecedented rainfall due to climate change.

Idris said the number of impervious areas, such as roads, pavement and buildings, had grossly reduced ground area which could absorb excess water naturally.

“The state government has to conduct a comprehensive study on the ability of the infrastructure to cope with the rate of development.”

Over the years, he said, SAM had encountered and highlighted cases of mud floods and floods due to earthworks as well as development on hillslopes.

“Future flood mitigation plans must factor in weather patterns, intensity and frequency of rainfall, and the rise in sea level.”

Malaysian Nature Society Penang branch advisor D. Kanda Kumar also blamed the flash floods on overdevelopment, adding that other factors included hill cutting and poor drainage system.

“The authorities must be strict in enforcing laws on indiscriminate hill cutting. There must be a review of the state’s drainage system in view of the rapid development.”

Unusually-heavy rainfall has caused the water level at the Air Itam dam here to be filled almost to the brim.

Penang Water Supply Corporation corporate affairs manager K. Jeyabalan said water level at the dam
was at its optimum level or 92 per cent of its total capacity of 2.6 billion litres.

“It is normal for the dam to fill up during monsoon seasons and there are no inherent dangers.”

Jeyabalan said some 50 million litres of water from the dam was quickly processed to avoid it
from overflowing, adding that if there was an overflow, excess water would be discharged into Sungai Air Itam.

Despite the heavy downpour, two other dams in the state, in Teluk Bahang and Mengkuang, recorded only 57 per cent and 32 per cent of their total capacities respectively as of yesterday.