March 21, 2017
Recollections & Reflections – A weekly column by Aziz Hassan
SAME old story again about a problem that has been around for decades and, more frequent it must be said, since about 40 years ago.
Usually heavy rainfall is one scapegoat and a convenient one because nature cannot speak back to us. But if someone points a finger at siltation or poorly-built or structured drains or clogged ones, then many people will have to answer and that will make many feel jittery.
All that is needed to understand the flash floods problem is basic common sense. A close examination will also reveal the factors behind this phenomenon. There have been many studies too by academics and other experts and many of the findings are similar.
Most of the areas that have been hit by flash flooding usually have construction work in the vicinity and the water that overflows onto the tarmac is like teh tarik, which means the drains are full of silt. In other cases the drains are clogged with rubbish.
Apart from the drains not being able to serve the purpose for which they are built, excessive amounts of runoff water can be a factor.
A study by a Universiti Sains Malaysia lecturer 30 years ago discovered this to be the case on Penang island.
When you look at how much of Kuala Lumpur is paved and how the pavements are built, you wonder how those responsible for ensuring that the drains are not clogged can determine if there is indeed a problem below the surface.
You only have to be driving in KL during heavy rain to see the excessive amount of runoff water that flows on the roads and pavements.
In the last several months, Jalan Bangsar and Jalan Maarof have been prone to flash floods.
It was in the late 70s that a wide and deep culvert was built to mitigate the flooding there so why flooding should be a problem in the area now needs some answers. Those familiar with the area know that the culvert runs all the way to end off Jalan Damansara opposite Medan Damansara.
That the problem is serious cannot be ignored.
In the last week alone KL was hit twice by flash floods – on Tuesday and again yesterday afternoon, with about 12 roads affected, some of which affected twice in that period.
Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor was asked about this in Parliament, where he spoke about the drains being no longer adequate to cope with the amount of rainfall due to time.
A debatable point no doubt.
Following the same problem in May last year, he spoke about KL City Hall needing between RM30 and RM40 million to build two retention ponds in Pantai Dalam and Jalan Duta.
This plan needs scrutiny.
If water overflows the drains onto the tarmac it simply means that something is wrong with the drainage. This being the case, common sense tells us that the water isn’t flowing the way it should and remains stagnant to flood an area, usually a small one. Of what good then is a retention pool when the water cannot reach it in the first place?
Among the roads affected yesterday were Jalan Duta, Jalan Maarof (again), Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and the Masjid India area.
Water had to be pumped out too from two building basements.
Samsol Maarif Saibani, head of the KL Fire and Rescue Operations Centre, pointed to the SMART tunnel as one factor. Bernama quoted him as saying that the tunnel was not closed to traffic to release the water.
Gosh, didn’t he know about how this tunnel works and when it is closed to traffic?
The SMART tunnel has three operating modes.
It remains open under Mode 1 when there’s no storm or there’s low rainfall. Mode 2 is when there’s a minor storm and it is on semi-open status.
The tunnel is closed to traffic only under Mode 3 when there’s a major storm and the volume of water is determined by the flow at the confluence of the Klang and Ampang rivers. It is not meant to be closed under any other weather circumstances.
Obviously the amount of water that poured onto the city yesterday was not enough to trigger the Drainage and Irrigation Department to close the tunnel to traffic, which means the tunnel played no part in the problem.