KUALA LUMPUR: Penang government should stop all hillslope development projects due to its potential irreversible impact on the environment, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said.
Citing yesterday's incident, where a landslide and sinkhole caused a two-lane road in Tanjung Bungah to collapse, he said the state authorities must prioritise the issue to prevent a recurrence.
"On hillslope development projects, I request that all projects be discontinued.
"I believe that if the Penang government has extra funds, they should address the flooding issue in the state, for the welfare of the people," he told a special press conference today.
Earlier, Wan Junaidi visited the Flood Forecast and Warning Centre at the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) in Ampang.
Wan Junaidi said the severe flooding in Penang was not flash flood but due to a combination of extraordinary amount of continuous rainfall and the high tide phenomenon, also known as “king tide”.
"It has caused rainwater to remain on land, unable to flow out to the sea.
"Also, based on our checks, internal drainage system in Penang is already 20 to 30 years old.
"So, with all the development taking place, mainly on the island, the drainage capacity is inadequate to hold the excess rainwater, especially after many roads have been cemented and resurfaced with tar.
"Therefore, the state government must re-look into this matter," he said.
A continuous downpour lasting 17 hours and heavy winds since 12.30pm on Friday has paralysed George Town and Seberang Prai over the weekend with floods, landslides and uprooting trees.
It also resulted in seven deaths and the evacuation of over 5,000 people.
Meanwhile, when asked if excessive development could have triggered the flooding, Wan Junaidi said: "I do not want to politicise the issue...But as I mentioned earlier, heavy rain and high tide had caused the flooding in the state.
"However, if we keep clearing our forests, it will reduce the absorption capacity of rainwater and will eventually lead to floods."
Wan Junaidi said the government has approved RM150 million for the Sungai Pinang flood-mitigation project under the 11th Malaysia Plan.
"Upon completion of the project, in 2020, it should at least be able to handle the existing flood problem."
He said Penang's flood problem was unique, as it is an island, unlike cases in Terengganu and Kelantan.
"The only solution is by building barrage at sea or a reservoir to retain storm water.
"But, Penang has limited land therefore we cannot do so," he said.