Sahabat Alam Malaysia and the Consumers’ Association of Penang are alarmed by the massive flash floods that hit Penang both on the island and the mainland following intense downpours throughout the early morning of Friday, 15 September.
Apart from many areas in Penang under water, we also received news of landslides and mudslides in several areas such as in Tanjung Bungah and Paya Terubong, where hill cutting is going on for more high-rise projects.
Clearly, despite previous incidences of floods and landslides in Penang following intense rains, we do not seem to have learned any lessons.
Heavy tropical storms are to be expected in Penang and in the country.
But what is most disconcerting however is that the state government, instead of taking preventive measures such as in protecting hill lands and planting more trees to prevent soil erosion and surface water run-off, is approving more hill-cutting and removal of trees along roads for all kinds of development projects.
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All the flood mitigation measures will prove ineffective and inadequate if we do not address the root causes of flash-floods and landslides which stem from increased water run-off from removal of trees and hill-cutting.
The state government needs to halt this wrong kind of development and must genuinely be more environment friendly by taking measures to protect all hill lands, plant more trees and truly ensure sustainable development.
More extreme and intense rainfalls can be expected due to the impacts of climate change, not only in Malaysia but the world over, as exemplified by the massive recent floods in South Asia and even in the United States.
Many countries are taking adaptation measures seriously in light of climate change impacts but Penang and the rest of Malaysia are very far away from having proper adaptation plans to cope with more extreme rainfalls which will happen more frequently.
It is high time to learn from our mistakes, take corrective measures urgently and have proper adaptation plans in place.
SM Mohamed Idris is president of Sahabat Alam Malaysia and Consumers Association of Penang.