Expert gives thumbs up to Malaysia’s flood mitigation measures

25-Sep-2017 Intellasia | NST | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Malaysia’s flood mitigation and river restoration and conservation measures were put under the microscope last month when more than 1,000 international water management and environmental experts were in town to attend the International Association for Hydro-Environment Engineering and Research (IAHR) World Congress 2017.

Held at the Putra World Trade Centre, here, from August 13 to 18, the event was organised by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Department of Irrigation and Drainage Malaysia and National Hydraulic Research Institute of Malaysia (Nahrim).

Some 1,150 experts and delegates from 61 countries participated in the congress, where various forums and technical meetings were conducted and 772 research papers tabled.

The participants also managed to get first hand-hand knowledge of Malaysia’s own flood and river management techniques, as well as ecological conservation efforts.

Among the places they were taken to were the Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (SMART), here, that has succeeded in alleviating the city centre’s flooding woes; Putrajaya Wetlands Park in Putrajaya; Paya Indah Wetlands Park in Dengkil, Selangor, where a rainwater harvesting system has been installed; Sungai Klang River of Life project sites where work is going on to transform the river into a vibrant and liveable waterfront with high economic value; and Melaka where major rehabilitation and beautification works were carried out on Sungai Melaka to turn it into a tourist attraction.

Malaysia may not be completely free of flood risks, but its mitigation efforts have earned the praise of Roger A. Falconer, who is a professor in water management at the Cardiff University in the United Kingdom.

Falconer, who participated in the IAHR 2017 congress, said many parts of the world could learn from Malaysia when it came to flood mitigation techniques.

“In terms of flooding and how Malaysia deals with extreme storms, a lot of things that are done here (in Malaysia) are better than what you find in the rest of the world.

“The drains here go a metre deep; ours (in the UK) are not that deep and are not designed to face stormy weather,” he said.

Projects such as SMART that have been implemented to manage its rivers have enabled Malaysia to outperform other countries when it came to countering floods, he added.

Falconer, however, criticised the Malaysian habit of dumping rubbish into waterways and said it was time the government imposed stiff fines on such acts.

“It was the same in my country 20 years ago but now it is a serious offence to throw rubbish into any river. It’s like speeding, if people think they can get away with it, they will speed. But if they know they may get caught and be prosecuted, then they will not speed,” he said. On the topic of floods that continue to hit the east coast of the peninsula, senior lecturer at Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Civil Engineering Department Dr Balqis Mohamed Rehan said the East Coast Rail Line (ECRL) project implementers should take flood risks into consideration when planning the rail network.

(The RM55 billion ECRL is slated for completion in 2024 and it will link Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan to Port Klang, Selangor.)

“The most important thing to consider is accessibility to (rail) services in case flooding occurs. The tracks could be built in areas that are not prone to flooding, but in the event the area is hit by floods, will the service be accessible to the local community?” said Balqis.

Head of Universiti Teknologi Mara’s Water Resources Engineering and Management Research Centre Asso Prof Dr Shanker Kumar Sinnakaudan said the ECRL project would take the community’s interest into consideration as a social and environmental impact assessment study would be carried out.

“Our prime minister himself is very concerned about the social impact (of the project). Assessment studies are mandatory now,” he said. For the ECRL project, the impact of its development on land use and local economic activities, among others, would be studied, he added.

The issue of ecological restoration and conservation was also one of the main topics of discussion at the congress.

In her keynote address, Prof Dr Silke Wieprecht – chair of Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources Management at the Institute for Modelling Hydraulic and Environmental Systems at the University of Stuttgart, Germany – said sound ecological management always leave a positive impact on a nation’s economic growth and human capital development.

Issues relating to the ecosystem, such as rivers, have always been about land use planning, be it in developing countries like Malaysia and Thailand or developed countries like Germany, she said.

“The influence of activities like plantations, deforestation, use of pesticides in farms or terracing the hill slopes in the upstream (of a river) causes sediment intrusion into the river.

“We have to decide on suitable land use in accordance with the different types of crops and hill terrace designs,” she said.

Admitting that ecological conservation awareness remained at a low level worldwide, Wieprecht said in some countries, efforts were only taken to clean up rivers when the situation went out of hand.

“They have to source for drinking water from underground as an alternative to surface water that has become too dirty. However, the underground water level has also gone further down globally,” she said, adding that Malaysia did not experience this problem as it has abundant rainfall. director of Nahrim’s Coastal and Oceanography Research Centre Mohd Radzi Abd Hamid, meanwhile, said Malaysia should develop its own water management technologies that suit local conditions and can effectively deal with the problems faced by the people.

“We shouldn’t ‘copy and paste’ methods prescribed by other countries because no one knows if they will suit the local conditions.

“Any technology that we use must prove to be effective in resolving the problem concerned and has no negative impact on the people,” he said.

Assistant professor at India’s S.V National Institute of Technology’s Civil Engineering Department Dr P. V. Timbadiya said Nahrim’s N Code project to generate electricity from sea waves seemed very interesting.

(The N Code or Coastal Defence and Energy Generator is a coastal wave breaker into which an energy harvesting invention has been incorporated. Since 2015, Nahrim has been testing its N Code at the laboratory and various sites in the peninsula’s east coast to resolve coastal erosion by dissipating the energy force from the South China Sea waves.)

“They (Nahrim) have installed this in a few places in the sea for studies. This is a good idea.

“Similar experiments have been done in other parts of the world but at the moment, the technology has not been successfully implemented. Hopefully, what the Malaysian government is doing may work,” he said.


Category: Malaysia

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