Ex-mayors: KL needs massive overhaul of drainage system

The outlets of drains are said to be often submerged in Sungai Gombak, preventing water from flowing into the river. — Malay Mail pic
The outlets of drains are said to be often submerged in Sungai Gombak, preventing water from flowing into the river. — Malay Mail pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 15 — Two former mayors have attributed flash floods in the city to poor drainage systems and the lack of attention in improvising flood mitigation systems.

They also said the authorities should prioritise by acting now instead of waiting for flash floods to occur and then attempt to fix the situation.

Former mayor Tan Sri Elyas Omar said talks of addressing floods in Kuala Lumpur were raised extensively during his time in office from 1981 to 1992.

He said the city required a separate drainage master plan as tunnels were needed to improve water flow.

“We have a network of underground drains and culverts but they are not properly connected,” he said.

“We have the SMART tunnel but this alone is not enough. We need a network of drains and underground tunnels to drain the water. It’s just like roads, we need a network of roads to relieve congestion.”

The 1.9 billion Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (SMART) opened to traffic on May 14, 2007. The 13.2m diameter tunnel consists of a 9.7km storm water bypass tunnel, with a 4km dual-deck motorway within the tunnel.

He said the outlets of the drains that flow into Sungai Gombak and Sungai Klang were often submerged due to the high level of water in the rivers. The drains are also unable to cater to the high volume of water due to its design.

“Water is supposed to be drained out from these outlets to the river. But this cannot be done if the water levels in the rivers are higher than the outlets.”

“The river should function as a river, and not a drain.”

Elyas said during his time as mayor, he brought the matter up with former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

He, however, admitted it was not an easy task to revamp the drainage system due to lack of funds and it was a challenge getting the stakeholders involved.

“There must be a comprehensive plan that will see the participation of other departments and agencies overseeing our rivers and drainage system.

“It is a complicated matter. We cannot depend on Sungai Gombak and Sungai Klang anymore,” he said.

Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail, who was mayor from 2008 to 2012, said the flooding on Thursday was due to the rapid development projects.

“There was development in the past but now it’s even more and a lot of land is being cleared.

“City Hall must study the matter and find out what went wrong. The sides of the roads must be constantly checked as sediment from construction work could build up and clog drains.”

He said there was lack of maintenance and enforcement, and the tell-tale signs of flooding had always been there.

“Let’s not wait for something big to happen before fixing the situation. Obviously, people cannot accept what happened (on Thursday) as it was during peak hours.

“The symptoms were always there because even during slightly heavier rainfall, we can already see small puddles of water here and there.”

He said plenty has been invested in the “River of Life” programme as it was set up to not only to beautify the city but help ease the flooding situation.

“This project will help Kuala Lumpur once it is completed. Ultimately, City Hall must study the causes of floods in various locations in the city.”

Jalan Semantan, Jalan Bangsar, Jalan Pudu and Jalan Pantai Baru were flooded after a downpour last Thursday.

Business owners affected said the floods were the worse in the last 30 years.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said on Friday the flash floods happened as the drainage system was not capable of accommodating rainfall of over 80mm per hour.

Thursday’s rainfall was recorded at between 120mm and 140mm per hour for two hours. 

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