Saturday, February 03, 2007

Barking up the Wrong Tree

It's not fair for Johor's chief minister Ghani Othman and Malay newspapers in Malaysia to suggest that the massive flooding at the southern town of Kota Tinggi was partly due to Singapore's reclamation works.

He reportedly said that the land reclamation has narrowed the river mouth of Sungai Johor, causing the massive destruction in Kota Tinggi. He was cited by New Straits Times as saying that the narrowing of the river mouth had slowed the discharge of excess rain water into the Johor Straits (infographics from NST).

Singapore's strong response was swift like the flash floods. But the Singapore government merely rebutted the allegation, without giving any reason for the flood due possibly to diplomatic reasons.

The primary reason that caused Sungei Johor to overflow must have been the state of the river itself. It's no secret that rivers in the state are heavily polluted and clogged, making them incapable to discharge sudden surge in rain water efficiently into the open seas, with or without reclamation works by Singapore.

In fact, the five rivers in the state are the main cause of pollutants and toxic discharge into the stale Straits of Johor -- the narrow strip of water separating Malaysia and Singapore. The pollution in the straits is compounded by the land-based causeway, which blocks the natural flow of water in the straits.

Building an overhead bridge to replace the causeway will help water circulate more freely in the straits. But Malaysia and Johor must first step up efforts to clean up the rivers and relocate industries and squatters along the dirty rivers, instead of pointing the finger at its southern neighbour.

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