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Human factors in climate change

  • While the weekend floods in Penang could be classified as a natural disaster, the human links in them could never be wholly ruled out. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

Sin Chew Daily

The horrendous floods in Penang were caused by unusual rainfall and high tides, coupled with the strained flood prevention systems and uncurbed development. Almost the entire state was inundated by floodwaters.

What happened in Penang could happen elsewhere in the country, and as such the priority now is to seriously look into the issue of climate change as well as our existing flood mitigation systems.

Massive floods hit the states of Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and parts of Johor in 2014, mainly due to a change in weather patterns too. The most serious in the country, those floods caused more than RM1 billion in losses.

The government subsequently allocated RM4 billion for near-term and long-term flood mitigation projects in states that are vulnerable to monsoon floods.

The Penang floods show that average recurrence interval (ARI) in rainfall has already exceeded 100, meaning the government must reconsider its strategies to tackle another flood of similar scale in the future.

Natural resources and environment minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar has said the federal government must re-look into rainfall figures as well as its strategies in order to tackle drastic changes from various factors.

It is absolutely necessary to increase financial allocations and fully implement flood mitigation projects in view of such major disasters. Governments at various levels have drawn up flood mitigation plans and placed emphasis on environment impact assessments of major development projects, having suffered the consequences of monster floods. The success and effectiveness of these measures depend very much on the scale of the projects and how far the relevant authorities have conscientiously performed their jobs.

The Climate Science Special Report just released by the US government shows that human activities are the primary factor triggering climate change. This is no more a theory but a reality. It means that Mother Nature has backfired on environmentally destructive human activities.

While the weekend floods in Penang could be classified as a natural disaster, the human links in them could never be wholly ruled out.

The human factor could encompass several different aspects, but the biggest problem lies with human nature and market. For example, misappropriation of allocations and fund abuses could result in jerry-built structures unable to withstand the slightest forces of nature. Owing to lax supervision, key infrastructural projects have been repeatedly delayed with substandard end results.

While there are rules and guidelines that all property developers must strictly adhere to, the same have been deliberately overlooked as own interests precede the safety of the public in the eyes of those responsible.

As for the climate warning systems, even if they conform to the highest international standards, without strict implementation they are simply useless.

In the wake of global climate change, federal and state governments must prioritize the interests of rakyat and act decisively on the many instances of gross negligence revealed in the auditor-general's reports year after year, instead of making unrealistic pledges.

 

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