KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s Minister for Natural Resources and Environment on Monday (Nov 6) said the government will spend 4.3 billion ringgit (US$1.01 billion) on 16 flood mitigation projects over the next few months.
He was speaking a day after heavy rain brought floods to many parts of northern Peninsula Malaysia. The floods left at least seven dead in Penang, with neighbouring states Perlis and Kedah also affected.
Kelantan, on the eastern seaboard of the peninsula, was also hit by floods over the weekend.
Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said flooding has continually displaced people across the country annually, and added that there will be 16 projects implemented between now and March next year across the country.
These will include building culverts and dams.
"We will solve all problems bit by bit,” he said. “When we are done, hopefully we can avoid more floods in Malaysia. But when it comes to flash floods, we need state governments and local authorities to solve drainage and irrigation in their own towns."
In the case of Penang, the minister is calling on an end to all hillside development projects that could exacerbate flooding.
On Oct 21, one such construction site was hit by a landslide - an incident potentially deadly on its own, but one that could also clog up drainage with mud and debris leading to floods.
Wan Junaidi said the deadly floods in Penang were impossible to mitigate against.
"What happened in Penang was beyond what we could have predicted,” he said. “When the rain fell on Nov 4 and Nov 5, it exceeded the normal rainfall levels there.
“There hasn't been rain like that in 10, 20 years; the rain was so heavy that any town would have flooded.
“This happened to when there was a king tide - so the water couldn't even flow out into the sea because water from the sea was coming in."
Troops fanned out in Penang to rescue stranded flood victims and also to clear blocked routes and clean up on Sunday, as more than 3,000 people were evacuated.
Hundreds of trees were toppled and roads were submerged in Penang’s historic capital George Town, leaving many areas largely paralysed.
(Additional reporting by Sumisha Naidu.)