Monday, January 15, 2007

Sinking High City

(Pix source: The Star, The Straits Times)

IT is indeed ironic that the sleepy town of Kota Tinggi in the southern Malaysian state of Johor has been inundated with flood water. Though sad, it's odd because Kota Tinggi literally means High City in Malay.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi reportedly said the government was "monitoring" the second wave of flooding closely, and that a state of emergency would be declared if it was deemed necessary by the National Security Council. If it happens, reports said it could mean flood victims being barred from returning to their homes, a ban on travel to affected areas and the enforced closure of businesses, among other possible measures.

'So far, it is OK,' the premier reportedly said, after the attending the Asean Summit in Cebu.

The Malaysian leader must be quite detached from what is happening on the ground. How can the premier say it is OK when more than 100,000 people have been displaced in the state alone? This must have been one of the worst natural disasters in Malaysia.

The number of people displaced is equivalent to 3.6 per cent of the state's population of 2.8 million people. Most of those affected are in Kota Tinggi, which has a much smaller population base that is estimated to be less than 500,000 people. This means as much as 20 per cent of the population in the Kota Tinggi area could be homeless now.

It's also ironic that water-rich Johor -- the main catchment area for water to be sold to Singapore -- is now submerged in water. Perhaps, a long-term solution is to channel excess rain water in Johor to Singapore, which is always hungry for more water.

One possible solution is to build monsoon drains to channel flood water in the state to existing water treatment plants, which can then channel the raw water to Singapore.

But will Singapore see it as a breach of their water agreements? Well, that's another story.

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