No end to perennial flooding, even as Kuala Lumpur turns 50 this year

We’ve heard it one too many times.

“Heavy rainfall is the reason why flash floods occurred in the city.”

Yes. Whenever there are flash floods, the rain is often made the scapegoat.

The same excuse was once again cited by Environment and Water Minister, Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, in explaining the reason behind the flash floods in Kuala Lumpur, on Monday.

The truth is, heavy rain alone is not, and cannot be the only reason why flash floods occur.

Drainage systems that are unable to accommodate surface runoff, obstructions in drains, and shallow riverbeds, are some of the other reasons why floods occur.

Overdevelopment and the rapid change of land use can also cause abnormal flow of rainwater, leading to flash floods.

For close to a century, those living in this part of the Klang Valley have witnessed floods of various magnitude.

From the great floods of 1926, to the five-day, great deluge of 1971, there have also been hundreds of flooding incidents in Kuala Lumpur over the last 22 years.

Of course, the government has never been idle.

From the setting up of a flood control commission, to the establishment of flood disaster relief machinery, lessons learnt during the 1971 floods even saw flood forecasting and warning systems being set up.

The Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (SMART Tunnel), which started operating in 2007, is also another initiative meant to overcome flash floods in the city. Retention ponds in various parts of the city, including Jinjang, Desa, and Batu ponds, are also meant to reduce the impact of heavy rainfall.

The latest plan?

Tuan Ibrahim revealed that his ministry is carrying out flood disaster risk assessment studies based on climate change projections.

Yet, as the minister revealed his ministry’s grand plans, one wonders, when will the drains in many parts of the country, and not just the Klang Valley, be upgraded?

How long would it take before local councils realise that big developers and private landowners should not be the ones dictating the plot ratio and density of their development projects?

Development control measures must be strictly enforced, without fear or favour.

The fact that the flash floods on Monday came barely three months after the great floods on Dec 18, 2021, is a clear sign that the worst is yet to come.

However, what the people see and hear right now is a case of one too many experts claiming that studies and blueprints will be drawn up to address climate change and the floods.

While Kuala Lumpur celebrates its golden jubilee this year, we are still far from being the sustainable, resilient, and prosperous city that we aspire to be.

Something is surely not right, if the first settlement in Malaysia granted city status 50 years ago is still struggling to address perennial flash floods.

Climate change is real, and storms, unpredictable as they are, will continue to occur.

While things seem rosy on the surface, it should be noted that Kuala Lumpur was not built on rock and roll. This city was built on great vision and aspirations.

Do the people of this city have to suffer for another 50 years before there is real commitment to address the elephant in the (city-sized) room, once and for all?

Tagged with: