NGOs propose flood mitigation measures to govt

The govt on the whole had never taken the natural environment and the problems tied to it seriously, says PEKA president


POLITICIANS are so engrossed in having power that they do not prioritise the people’s safety, as reflected in the recent flood crisis, said the Organisation for the Preservation of Natural Heritage Malaysia (PEKA).

Its president Puan Seri Dr Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said the government on the whole had never taken the natural environment and the problems tied to it seriously, since the country gained independence 64 years ago.

“Our government is still saying that we have 50% of forest cover while in actual fact, we have only about 12% or less.

“There is massive corruption and greed in the management of the country and her assets from all so-called leaders and until we stamp it out completely, the rakyat will never be able to have a safe, secure and hopeful future.

“The ministers are only focused on getting power. I do not think they know their jurisdiction,” she said during PEKA’s press briefing on the flood situation in Shah Alam yesterday.

The organisation has called on the government to take heed of PEKA’s 23 proposed solutions to overcome the flood problem in the country.

Among the proposed solutions include the appointment of ministers that are well-versed and experienced in the ministries they are appointed to.

“If the ministers do not know what their roles are or what to do, they should cooperate with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or those with experience on the subject.

“We can give our feedback. Do not view the NGOs as enemies,” Shariffa Sabrina said.

Other proposed solutions include permanent moratorium on logging and mining in forested areas as well as initiatives to rehabilitate lost forest areas by replanting native species.

Shariffa Sabrina also said there must be stricter laws and higher fines on those who commit environmental crime and there needs to be an end to all reclamation and unnecessary infrastructure projects.

“There should also be mandatory education on the importance and preservation of the natural environment in all schools, colleges and universities,” she said.

Other proposed measures include a review on the infrastructure guidelines to protect the environment as well as an immediate gazette of Banjaran Titiwangsa as a national park and to be managed by the federal government.

Meanwhile, Otai Reformis secretary Abdul Razak Ismail said both the central and state governments had failed in preparing the required assets to overcome the floods.

He highlighted that the Selangor government has a disaster management unit that should have been well prepared in managing the crisis.

“The state government should not have only depended and waited for rescue efforts from the Natural Disaster Management Agency or the central government. It can operate on its own,” he said in his opening remarks during the briefing.

Separately, the Global Environment Centre (GEC) said the country must rethink its flood prevention, mitigation and preparedness approach while ensuring coordinated implementation.

Its director Faizal Parish said the clearing of catchment forests and peatlands must end as they are effective in absorbing rainfalls and reducing flood peaks.

“Once forests are cleared, the runoff can increase by five to 10 times, and eroded soil can clog rivers and drains,” he said in a statement.

Other important flood prevention measures include regular cleaning and desilting of rivers and drains, protecting river buffers or corridors where developments are not allowed.

Faizal added that the natural flood retention zones should also be enhanced along rivers and urban areas.

GEC’s river care programme manager Dr Kalithasan Kailasam said developments should be stopped at flood prone areas and steadily move vulnerable communities out of the areas.

“Unless our communities are flood-proofed, our infrastructures well-prepared and catchments and wetlands protected, we will be increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of flooding, as shown recently,” he said.