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If floods hit

By LIM SUE GOAN
Translated by Soong Phui Jee
Sin Chew Daily

The current floods in Thailand make me wonder what would happen if the scene takes place in Malaysia.

I am not having groundless fears. No one can actually be sure whether the so-called paradise on earth would be able to forever escape from natural disasters due to global climate anomalies.

Obliviousness is a weakness of human nature and thus, many have failed to avoid disasters. Take the massive floods in Thailand as an example, floods have started to hit the country in May but the authorities have failed to promptly release water from dams. Since flood discharge has been focus only on a few major rivers while small tributaries have been neglected, they have eventually become the seed of the disaster.

Scientists from the World Bank, United Nation (UN) and European Union (EU) have warned nine Asian regions, including Bangkok, of the risk of major floods in a study last year. However, Thai politicians only focused on the July parliamentary elections and neglected the warning. The excessive emphasis on elections and votes has eventually brought a disaster.

In the recent 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Turkey, survivors complained that they have received almost no assistance from the government and could only look for their loved ones buried under the rubble with shovels. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan admitted that there were failures in the distribution of aid supplies during the first 24 hours after the earthquake, adding that such mistakes could happen in disaster situations.

The scenario seems familiar. We only realised a drainage problem during the 2006 floods in the southern Peninsula. However, another flood hit the southern Peninsula again before the Chinese New Year this year. Just like then, the government announced an allocation for water management and no one knows whether it would be able to avoid another flood.

During the southern Peninsula floods early this year, a man in Segamat died of asthma after 10 hours without rescue. Could the authority guarantee prompt aid supplies if another flood hits?

The floods in Thailand have taught us a precious lesson. Experts pointed out that climate changes and man-made reasons have contributed to the massive floods this year. In addition to the failure of water conservancy and flood discharge plans, there are also factors like over-exploitation of land, wetlands occupied by new industrial areas, as well as logging in upstream forests while river beds in downstream are sinking.

Malaysia is also facing the problem of excessive development. Mudslides collapse houses and bury villages while many rivers are blocked by mud and rubbish. Once rainfall surges, floods might creep into cities and the current scene of Bangkok would be repeated.

The floods in Thailand have also become a political struggle. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who has just taken over the office two months ago, has been demonised by the opposition and being called a "brainless Barbie doll".

If Malaysia faces a severe flooding, could the BN and the Pakatan Rakyat work together to solve the problem? Or would they play politics just like Thai politicians?

I am worried about the authorities' attitude and disaster response mechanism, as well as their ability to evacuate and provide aid supplies. Once we are hit by floods, national security will also become a big problem, including over-reliance on food imports, and threats of illegal workers and overstayers.

Hopefully, natural disasters will never hit Malaysia or the consequences will be worrisome.

 

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