Home TA Online Denuded hills – not surge in headwaters – triggered Baling floods

Denuded hills – not surge in headwaters – triggered Baling floods

How is it that those who are behind such projects invariably get away?

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People are being misled about the cause of the Baling floods.

It is claimed that “kepala air” (a surge in headwaters) was the cause. This is far from the truth as the headwaters are where rivers begin in the hills or mountains.

Naturally, when there is heavy or prolonged rainfall in the area of the headwaters, some of the water does not get absorbed into the ground as quickly as during normal rainfall. The excess water flows directly into the rivers, swelling river levels quickly as the water flows downstream at great speed and pressure.

People living in the hinterland are well aware of how the rivers rise when there is heavy or prolonged rainfall in the upper reaches of the rivers. They would never build their houses near or below the highest point of the river level during the so-called headwaters phenomenon. This is like the high-tide mark of the sea. No sane person would build a house on the ground below or close to the high-water mark.

The houses that were washed away by the Baling floods were all above the highest mark of the river level. These houses had stood there for years, decades or even longer without the gushing waters reaching them. Previously, before the forest in the heavy rainfall area upstream was destroyed and the soil left naked, the gushing water was as clean as drinking water.

But what happened in Baling was a mudflow, albeit diluted. The amount of water and mud that gushed down was many, many times above the normal level caused by swollen headwaters. The water level rose well above the normal highest water level mark and triggered all the devastation.

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The direct cause of the flood was the thousands of acres of barren or naked land, exposed directly to the force of raindrops, which loosened the soil. The high run-off volume carried down this loosened soil. The pressure of the massive quantity of water gushing downhill swept whatever was in its way.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) was therefore right to call out the Kedah menteri besar for misleading the people about the cause of the floods.

The headwaters phenomenon is not unusual, as it happens on any hillside area. It has also been happening in Baling for ages, especially during heavy rainfall in the upper reaches of the rivers.

So, why hasn’t such devastation happened before? It is about time the authorities stopped making fools of the public.

The massive clearing of the hills was driven by Greed. Has any environmental impact consultant denied that irresponsible logging was the primary cause of the devastation? 

Many innocent lives were lost in the floods. Shouldn’t those who approved the logging and those who carried out the logging be held liable for the loss of lives?

Will the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission carry out a probe for possible abuse of power in the granting of approvals that led to several deaths?

How is it that those who are behind such projects are always able to get away?

It takes a long time for the forest foliage to regrow. Until then, we will see similar devastation for years to come.

How will the government prevent similar floods from recurring? As long as we are unable to stop torrential downpours from washing down bare soil, we will not be able to prevent similar floods.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Gursharan Singh
Gursharan Singh
12 Jul 2022 11.04am

Is it not a common culture among some political leaders and others in position of power or influence to blame nature or others for disasters which in most probability may have been caused by the greed of some in power and wealthy?

World’s rich countries and individuals such as those in G7 WEF WB IMF etc periodically meet to discuss world impacting problems [‘holidays in luxurious locations’] make decisions on important subjects like Climate Change and Covid19 but may be perceived to be more for public relations as nothing is improved as no solutions may be provided or implemented. The only final impact may be that the RICH BECOME RICHER AND THE POOR BECOME POORER. Poor used to Poverty Rich need to be supported.
Bless all

Paul Lim
Paul Lim
17 Jul 2022 8.48pm

There Will be the need for a massive tree-replanting programme and trees of all kinds especially those with deep roots to hold back soit érosion I présumé. Can government be dépende upon or private initiative?

Clem Jarvis
Clem Jarvis
12 Jul 2022 9.15am

Dear Ravinder,

An excellent and important article.

We are not immune from this either. On a slightly different topic, now that climate change is bringing more frequent and heavier rains and floods to Eastern Australia we have local councils that are still authorizing housing projects in potentially unstable flood prone areas.

Best wishes,

Clem J

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