Floods and measures to improve national flood risk management

By , in Environment Nation on .

Kuala Lumpur, January 5 — The All-Party Parliamentary Group Malaysia (APPGM-SDG) has put forward suggestions to the Prime Minister, Dato Seri Ismail Sabri regarding the disastrous nationwide floods, as well as recommendations for measures to improve flood risk management in the country.

APPGM-SDG is a bi-partisan group established by the Parliament, comprising of MPs from across political persuasions, academics, and non-governmental organizations, and is mandated to localize the Sustainable Development Goals at the constituency level throughout Malaysia.


According to APPGM-SDG, there are three main factors that contributed to the occurrence of ghastly floods, which were among the worst in history, with at least 48 casualties, 71,000 people evacuated, and an estimated infrastructure damage of at least RM300 million. The factors are:

Climate change
According to the Ministry of Environment and Water (KASA), the continuous heavy rains between December 18-19 equaled the average rainfall distribution in the Klang Valley for a period of one month, a phenomenon that happens every 100 years.
This situation is consistent with the latest IPCC report stating that climate change will increase the frequency, intensity, and patterns of extreme weather.

Readiness and Response
The inconsistencies in work and communication between government agencies from rescue operations to post-flood relief, leading to the increased number of people vulnerable to floods.
Many victims reported that government channels failed to warn and provide timely information regarding the floods.

Development Planning
Malaysia has the highest percentage of the population (67%) vulnerable to floods among Southeast Asian countries.
-Deforestation in water catchment areas due to land-use change and uncontrolled and illegal logging activities, exposing the land.
-Development projects that are not closely regulated and do not have adequate drainage systems, including not following the Environmentally Friendly Drainage Manual (MSMA), low-capacity catchment ponds, and ineffective sediment deposition systems.
-Development in slope areas contributes to increased runoff and landslide risk during heavy rainfall.

Most cities in Malaysia have low levels of permeability and loss of green space.

In addition, apart from floods, there are subsequent hazards that threaten affected areas such as exposed slopes at risk of landslides, stagnant water supply, damaged structures, and vector-borne diseases, disturbances in the food supply chains, and faulty power stations.

APPGM-SDG suggested that the government adopt 11 measures to drive a holistic and integrated flood risk management approach, with the focus on better development planning and climate responsiveness. The measures include:

  1. Establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to conduct a comprehensive investigations into governance, availability communication and response between the federal and state government in the search and rescue.
  2. Establish a RCI to conduct in-depth investigations in all affected areas to identify local factors that contribute to the risk of flood disasters.
  3. Review land use planning including the State Structure Plan and Local District Plan and the process of gazetting the Permanent Forest Reserve in Malaysia. The National Forestry Act 1984 needs to be reviewed and strengthened to make it mandatory for the public to participate in the delisting of Permanent Forest Reserve in all states.
  4. Accelerate the production of the National Adaptation Plan (myNAP) which, since 2015, has future scenario planning, risk-based framework and is equipped with clear actions and targets. This is critical to building the resilience of key sectors threatened by extreme weather and the effects of climate change such as water resources, food security, infrastructure, public health, communities and biodiversity.
  5. Empower and leverage the use of “Nature-based Solutions” in disaster risk management and climate adaptation. These include:

    -Accelerate the gazetting of water catchment forests and flood control forests and prohibit development and logging activities in those areas.
    -Establish a moratorium for the no-issuance of new logging certificates and review all logging certificates for Permanent Forest Reserve areas.
    -Establish incentive and disincentive structures for forest and natural resource conservation to state governments through central government revenue distribution including “Ecological Fiscal Transfer”.
    -Stop the conversion of Permanent Forest Reserve land to plantation forests nationwide.

  6. Review and stop development in environmentally sensitive and vulnerable areas, especially areas with high population density such as Bukit Nenas. It risks landslides during floods if development continues, with repair costs being borne by the people and tax revenue. Funds and investments can instead be channeled into infrastructure protection and building local resilience such as forest conservation.
  7. Establish nationwide programs to transform urban areas towards more holistic and integrated water management such as the “Sponge City” concept which can address flash floods and other municipal problems such as water shortages, urban heat islands, air quality and ecosystem degradation. Nature-based Solutions through green corridors, urban forests, recreation areas, retention ponds, drainage and rivers should be given priority.
  8. Establish a legal framework mandating a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for all policies, plans and programs to implement environmental and climate mitigation and adaptation actions at all stages of the decision-making process.
  9. Implement Community-based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM) programs throughout the country to increase the level of preparedness of the people to face future disasters.
  10. Establish mechanisms to accelerate the development of resilience (build back better) in areas affected by disasters in terms of infrastructure repairs, recovery of income sources, insurance and compensation for “loss and damages“, health and psychosocial services.
  11. Establish a Climate Change Commission to oversee climate change matters including adaptation and disaster risk management.

APPGM-SDG hopes that the Cabinet would consider the suggestions and recommendations presented towards building climate resilience and driving the country’s sustainable development agenda.


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