Saturday, January 17, 2009

2009 FLOODS IN KUCHING

Each time when there was flood SUPP leaders were always too efficient and busy seeking donations and handing out foods and other reliefs to the flood victims. Each time, when there was flood, those flood victims in Kgp Kudei were normally always been in the front pages of the newspapers. SUPP leaders had politically exploited their problem and the recent clever exploitation of the flood victims at Kpg. Kudei was in fact, a re-cycling of the plights faced by these people. This should not have happened had problem about their plight had been solved as promised some twenty years ago. They were poor people and had told the authorities that they need to be re-settled and there were promises by the State Government to resettle them, but, until now these poor people could not get help from the government. The government knew that they have to be resettled because Kpg. Kudei was not a suitable place for human occupation because the lives of those who made their homes there could one day face great danger from fire, disease and flood.

However, BN and SUPP leaders had so far failed to appreciate the damage caused by the floods in the past years, especially, in 2003 and 2004 were meaningless to their publicity of love and compassion. BN and SUPP leaders should realize that floods were serious problems and they should not keep on telling the people that floods in Kuching and surrounding areas were act of God. We could not blame God totally because many of the causes of floods in Kuching and other adjacent areas were also man created through policies of the government of the day. God gave Sarawak River two tributaries, but, why blocked them with a causeway and a barrage? Why did not foresee that housing estates should need better drainage systems? Why fell the trees and cleared the forests, when trees could help mitigate floods by soaking the water during heavy rain? Why fell trees and clearing of forests be allowed for purpose of profit of the few, yet, without proper replanting and forest management? Were not these contributed to erosions and siltation of the river beds of the Sarawak River? Had not this siltation then caused the riverbeds to be shallow? Had not the shallow waterbeds cause rain water to rise up very quickly to flood riverbanks and into the farms, shops and houses?

Now, who should be responsible for all these floods? Was it not the government of the day that was also responsible for the flood in Kuching City? Were not big floods like the ones in 2003, 2004 and this year unheard of in Kuching?

And after having contributed to the flood, many BN leaders including those in the SUPP then came all out to show love and compassion to those affected by the floods by evacuating those affected and putting them in places like Chinese Schools. Why should they put these flood victims in Chinese schools? Were they not aware that Chinese schools receive very little fund from the government? Were they aware that many of these Chinese schools were near bankrupt and that they have to be thrifty in their expenditure? Now, these Chinese schools have to find extra funds to pay the costs of electricity and water used by these flood victims and it is not sure whether these schools used as refuge for the flood victims will be compensated by the government or not for their loss. Of course, those that had been evacuated each time there was flood, included those people of Kpg. Kudei in the Batu Lintang Constituency.

BN leaders including those in the SUPP had made these flood victims in Kpg. Kudei good re-cycled news for their political mileage, but, forgot that this was at the expense of the sufferings of the people caused by the government they run. The public should have no thanks to them for such gestures of love and compassion because the sufferings caused to the people were substantially created by the BN government, in which, we could not put this as caused by act of God.

The leaders of the BN and SUPP should understand that flood problem should be tackled once and for all. We should not let it happen again and again because not only the people in Kpg. Kudei that suffered, but, the farmers, shopkeepers, daily paid workers and businessmen also suffered. This time the loss for businessmen in Kuching, especially, at the Main Bazaar, India Street, Padungan, Petanak, Batu Lintang and Sekama, could be something not less than a million ringgit and the poor farmers had their fishes in the ponds escaped into the seas and their vegetable gardens destroyed. Their losses were also been very substantial.

Sg. Maong area of the Batu Lintang Constituency was a low lying area and Kg. Kudei is within the Constituency. In 1991 State Election it was splashed in local newspapers that the state government came out with plans to tackle the flood problems in Kuching and in Batu Lintang. Dr. George Chan had personally appeared in The Borneo Post dated 26. 9. 1991 to say that a grant of RM60 million came from both the state and federal coffers to improve the drainage system in Batu Lintang and this did not include additional funds announced by the Chief Minister, Tan Sri Taib Mahmud, for the drainage plan study. However, a sincere Minister, Datuk Wong Soon Koh told the Dewan when questioned by me that there was no such fund.

There was also a feasibility study to improve the drainage systems and flood control for Kuching City, in which, came with the idea of the Sarawak Barrage and also a causeway to be build across the two tributaries of the Sarawak River. The Sarawak Barrage was then built on one of the tributaries and the causeway was built on the other tributary. The Sarawak Barrage with its’ gates was to regulate the water flow in and out of the Sarawak River while the causeway was as a driveway for cars to cross from the Kuching side of the City to Petrajaya. In the feasibility study by an engineering firm from the United Kingdom in collaboration with a local engineering firm, it was said that if a barrage and a causeway were to be constructed, a canal somewhere at Kpg. Paroh should be constructed so that a replacement water outlet could be found to let the flood water to flow to the South China Sea. This engineering report from the engineering firm, Rendel, Palmer & Tritton was first shown by me to the public during the 2004 General Election. Fed-up with the floods, I have to get my friends to discreetly passed me this report and I thanked them for their help.

The estimated cost at that time was only RM70 million, but, now it is said that the whole project would cost RM1 billion! To this, many said we had a stupid government.

Not only matter ended there. In the 2004 General Election a State Cabinet Minister and leader of SUPP said that the state government had employed the services of experts from China to study the flood problems in the City of Kuching. In the Dewan Undangan Negeri recently when cornered by Honourable Members from the Opposition, the State Government said they would this time seriously look into the matter. A senior BN politician before he left the Federal Cabinet and who at one time was speculated to take over from Tan Sri Pehin Taib Mahmud as Chief Minister, also said that funds were coming from the Federal Government. Now, where is the fund? What had happened? Again, we now hear (The Borneo Post dated 17. 1. 200) from Dr. George Chan, assistance from the federal government is sought, but, this was an old song sung many time, but, still this song never caught much attention from the BN government. The song had not become sweet to the ears anymore, and something must quickly be done by the BN government.

It was also recently disclosed that the canal at Kpg. Paroh definitely would be built, but, until now we did not receive the progress of the project. Even if the project gets off the ground and be completed, there is no guarantee that this canal could solve the flood problems in Bau and Kuching areas. This is because the canal if built must have the size and depth to replace the two tributaries of the Sarawak River built for causeway and the barrage. Even if the canal could be completed, but, if it will be a small and shallow canal, then public money spent would be a waste.

So BN leaders had big plans, but, talked only. They all had in their mind projects of millions of ringgits to solve the flood problems in Kuching, but, none of their plans until now had materialized to relieve the sufferings of the Kuching people. Instead they were too energetic to be political beggars to beg for donations from many companies and businessmen. These companies and businessmen could be flood victims themselves and could have suffered much loss due to the flood, but, had to give face to these political leaders in donating to other flood victims. Instead of getting help to mitigate their loss, they had to incur further loss by helping others when they had to oblige and give face to these BN leaders.




Why Need the Barrage?




The barrage was said necessary for three purposes. First, to prevent salty sea water from going upstream the Sarawak River so that saline water would not be pumped into our water treatment plant. This water treatment plant by the Kuching Water Board supplies treated water to the people of Kuching and the surrounding areas. Second, the barrage with its’ gates were to control the flow of water pouring out of the barrage and into the sea so that water in the upper stream of the Sarawak River could be maintained consistently at a certain level. With the water level at a certain level at the upper stream, the Kuching Water Front could look scenic. Third, the barrage with its’ gates was said to prevent king tide water from going up the Sarawak River that could flood Kuching City. This explanation should not be acceptable because by blocking water from high tides going upstream to Kuching, this could then cause the mouth of the Sarawak River to swell up and flood the costal areas and cause people at costal areas to suffer from flood.

As said earlier, the barrage was said necessary to control saline water from the South China Sea going upstream to be pumped into the water treatment plants maintained by the Kuching Water Board so that water treated by these water treatment plants would be treated water of good quality to meet World Health Organization standard. Therefore, it was argued that the barrage was a necessity and must be built so that treated water would not be saline. The fear of poor treated water quality for consumption had raised fears among the authorities, in which, during flood of the last few days they came with a press statement to tell the people of Kuching that despite the flood water, the treated water for Kuching was safe for consumption.

However we must understand that the barrage should not have been considered in the first place to solve the problem of the safety of our water for public consumption. Instead of the barrage, what the relevant authorities should, in the first place, have considered was the upgrading of the water purification systems. There were technologies in the water purification systems that could even treat the dirtiest water and could also remove poisons and harmful chemicals and why this had not been considered?

With the barrage built to help to control the saline raw water to be pumped for treatment, had we got safe treated water for consumption? Can our treated water be safe for consumption when water treatment chemicals and bacteria were found beyond the permitted level? This matter was raised by me in the Dewan Undangan Negri recently. If our treated water was truly safe for human consumption, then, why there were too many people suffering from kidney diseases and kidney failures in Kuching? Was not water that we drank everyday from our pipes was one of the causes towards these kidney failures and problems? Health problem caused by poor quality of drinking water could in turn had caused the costs of our national health care to rise up sharply and had unnecessary ate into our national economy. This clearly shows that the government had lacked the foresight in handling this matter or could this government has compromised the health of the people which made the government to chose for political and social convenience the barrage mooted by one man?

It was said that the idea of the barrage came from a senior BN politician who has a house facing the Sarawak River. The said politician wanted the water level of the river to be regulated and not to fall below a certain level. If the barrage be built, the said politician was said wanted the water controlled by the barrage in front of his house be blue in colour like water found in many holiday islands in the world so that his wife and him could enjoy the scenic blue water in front of his house during sunsets. What a good idea and a friend told him that it was not a problem to fulfill his wish to turn the muddy water of the Sarawak River infront of his house to blue, but, all fish and fauna lives in the river would be destroyed by chemicals to be used to treat the muddy water. This led the plan for the blue water infront of the politician’s house been abandoned as it was also too costly to maintain. The barrage was also said to create good fengshui luck to the politician.

Common sense also told us that if we control the natural flow of water from going into the sea through the barrage, sedimentation would also occur and this in turn over years will make the river bed shallow. The water from the upper stream just could not flow out to the sea in normal speed and therefore could not also bring with it the sediments into the sea. When the riverbed becomes shallow, this can easily cause heavy rain water to overflow to the banks of the river and into our houses and farms.

To solve the flood problem for the people in Kuching, at least the causeway has to be dismantled and a bridge or a barrage be built over it. As it is now, instead of two outlets there is only one water outlet that allows water to pass through and into the South China Sea. This outlet is the Sarawak barrage. For the water problem, this could easily be solved by upgrading the water purification system and to ensure proper maintenance and supervision of the system so that no chemicals exceeding the permitted levels will be allowed to be found in the treated water.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

YB,

You have highlighted some good points about the past and the mistakes and the failed promises of the current government but I think the real concern should be the future plans. For example, defects in the design of the Kuching Flood Mitigation Project which is underway and has been given to Naim Cendera.

As always with these type of flood prevention projects in Sarawak the overall design is based on historic flood records, usually the last big flood in 100 years. So the project is built to handle a flood of the magnitude that occurred in days gone by. However, such an approach is seriously flawed. It is meaningless to use previous big floods as a benchmark as the land use patterns decades ago were totally different. Previously there were many unbuilt areas around Kuching. Today, land has been logged, mangroves have been cut down, housing developments built and rivers are silted up. Furthermore, use of historic data does not take into account climate change. What about a climate change induced mega storm and sea surge?

It would be useful if you can bring this up in the DUN. For example, could you ask the relevant minister if climate change modeling has been used in the design of the new flood mitigation project to factor in future weather scenarios, not just historic flood records.

If Kuching's flood prevention strategy is based on poor design and ignorance then God help us all.

---

For your information a copy of the Rendel, Palmer & Tritton report is actually available in the State Library. See

http://www.librarynet.com.my/pls/angkasa/opac3_list.hit_list?pc_authnum=166950&pc_subject=Barrages%20-%20Malaysia%20-%20Sarawak%20-%20Design%20and%20construction&pc_product=OPAC&pc_location=

Anonymous said...

Put this story into pitcture story so the simple man can understand.

Hostage said...

YB.

1. Do we need foreign experts to advise us on flood mitigation?
2. Have Councils adhered to Building By-Laws when approving development plans?
3. Is there two set of rules when approving building and development plans?
4. With Logging activities and Dam Construction and massive land clearing, have the the depth of our rivers been monitered?

Unfortunately a drive around Kuching reals that all items raised in (2), (3) and (4) is a sad no.

Why?
Corruption!!!


Is the government serious?
It is again no.

Why?
The longer the issue is there, the bigger their bank account grow from Town Planners, Ministers, Technical Assistant and Council Committee looking in approving building plans. On this I am very sure of what I am saying and the evidence is there along Jln Kempas and Jln Penrissen.

The longer the issue is dragged, the more chances of obtaining funding to mitigate flood via trial and error. It is a joke to build bunds around a city or town when the basic means of tackling it is not even seen. It is common sense that a drain lacking the width and depth slows down the flow of water and it is also common sense a concrete drain drains water faster that a ditch, drain just dug into the ground.

I wonder where Wong Soon Koh whom I heard is former a JKR engineer got his degree from or did he even have one.

If I am a Minister and Mayor of the various district, I think the rakyat do not have to suffer loses and be compensated only 50% of the loses.

Conclusion, we do not need incapable people in the BN to run the state and we do not need a cartoon and childish minister like Wong Soon Koh to be part of the management team.

Anonymous said...

Barrage should not be blame for the flood.
Drive yourself to the upstream of SG Sarawak like Padawan Area( SG Sarawak Kiri) and Bau/Batu Kitang (Sg Sarawak Kanan) a lot of housing area being constructed.
As you know before this the water catchment area are really big but when the housing area been built at this water catchment area, there's no more water catchment area. SO water will immediately go to Sarawak Area as soon as it can compare to last time, water catchment area will hold the water (rain water) for certain time before slowly discharge to Sg Sarawak. This is the reason why the flood happen becouse no more water cathcment area.

Albert said...

YB,
i m a student from Limkokwing, and i found it quite an interesting topic of discussion being raised. Since i m doing a project of "floating giraffe"
Which is a structure floating on top of the water surface, can i have some opinions of yours?
The structure itself should be contributing towards the inhabitants around the river of Sarawak, ranging from Satok Bridge to Pending Bridge, where the Barrage is presently situated.

VOON LEE SHAN said...

Students at Limkwokwing are always very creative. but, I regret I could not contribute much idea. However, I would suggest that the floating giraffe should be placed near to the Waterfront to attract tourists. It should have colourful lights at night.

loro said...

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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