KUALA LUMPUR – The federal government has only spent less than half of its estimated and allocated budget for flood mitigation projects in Penang over the past decade, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry said today.

In a Parliamentary written answer to Lim Guan Eng (DAP-Bagan), the ministry said that although RM2.57 billion was approved and allocated by Putrajaya for flood mitigation projects, the real value of projects carried out to date was only RM1.04 billion.

However, the ministry said that it was not necessary for all of the funds to be spent on mitigation works as the funds approved were “ceiling estimates” for the projects that need to be carried out.

Lim, who is also Penang chief minister, had asked Putrajaya why it has not spent the total sum allocated for flood mitigation in Penang between the Ninth Malaysia Plan and the 11th Malaysia Plan.

The state was hit with massive floods over the weekend that killed seven people.

Penang needs new flood mitigation system, minister says

Abnormal downpour caused by climate change has rendered Penang’s current flood mitigation system obsolete and in need of a major revamp, a minister said today after major floods hit the state over the weekend.

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the state’s existing drainage system could not cope with rapid development taking place within the state, especially on the island, as land scarcity makes it harder to improve sewerage, like building a reservoir.

“Penang’s flood problem is unique from other states like Kelantan, Terengganu and so on because it is an island,” Wan Junaidi told a press conference held after a quick briefing with the Department of Irrigation and Drainage.

“When the water level goes up and you’re surrounded by the sea, where do you drain the water to?

“Some possible solutions may be to build a barrage in the sea or a reservoir for storm water…but because Penang has no large land to build it, they might have to make it deeper underground,” the Santubong MP said, referring to the island half of the state.

Over half of Penang was submerged in flood waters following heavy downpour that averaged more than 250mm in just 24 hours. That amounts to 60mm of heavy rain an hour, according to official data.

Yesterday, state Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng admitted that Penang’s flood mitigation system was outdated.

Penang’s sewerage and irrigation system is two to three decades old and was planned without anticipating the effects of climate change, according to Wan Junaidi.

“And when you factor in development… the more the land is leveled and cemented, the easier it is for rain water to pile up,” the minister said.

But under-capacity sewerage and irrigation is not a problem faced by Penang, the flood mitigation systems in all major cities in the country were to some extent outdated, the Wan Junaidi added.

Last year the federal government announced the RM150 million Sungai Pinang Basin Flood Mitigation Project, which Wan Junaidi said will help reduce Penang’s flood problems.

But the project will only start in January, 2018, and is expected to be completed in two years.

In the meantime, the Meteorological Department forecasts more heavy rain for Penang and other northwest states until the monsoon shifts to the east in December.

Wan Junaidi said the Penang government can “play its role” to prevent floods by using its Budget surplus to address the problem.

“Penang has to play its role… find a way to develop a good flood mitigation system. If you have a surplus, use it to address the floods,” he said.

Lim tabled a RM1.45 billion budget for 2017 with a deficit of RM667 million, his sixth consecutive deficit budget since 2011 although he said the state expects a surplus at year-end of 2016.

It has yet to table Budget 2018.

MEANWHILE, according to Malaysiakini:

Minister urges Penang to stop hillslope projects

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar has urged the Penang government to stop all hillslope development following recent landslides.

“Please do not (let it) proceed, because yesterday, there were landslides in Tanjung Bungah. Roads and houses (were affected).

“Luckily (the houses) were not handed over yet,” said Wan Junaidi in Ampang today.

A heavy storm caused massive flooding and chaos in Penang yesterday. The Tanjung Bungah area was affected by several landslides.

On Oct 22, a landslide at a construction site in Tanjung Bungah claimed 11 lives.

Wan Junaidi, who is also Santubong MP, said the Penang state government should prioritize flood mitigation projects if it had extra funds.

The minister, however, refused to say whether the alleged overdevelopment in Penang had contributed to the worsening flood condition in the state.

“I do not want to politicise the issue; I’m just saying there has been excessive rain that caused the flooding in Penang.

“But if there is a downpour and we have cleared our forests and hills, it will decrease the water retention capacity of the place, and eventually cause floods.

“Furthermore, if the irrigation system is not sufficient, or is clogged by mud, or debris, as we saw happen in Kuala Lumpur the other day, then flooding is imminent. It (the flooding) is not caused by a single factor,” he said.

Wan Junaidi expressed hope that flooding issues will be brought to an end in the 11th Malaysia Plan, through the Sungai Pinang flood barrier project.

“Starting this November, until March (next year), we will implement 16 mega projects worth RM4.3 billion.

“This is not an election project, but it was planned in 2016, ” he said.

– Malay Mail  /  Mkini