JAN 22 — It was a sensor that detected rising waters.
The siren would sound and a big balloon would gradually rise, alerting residents and motorists of possible flood in the area.
Hailed as the first such innovation in the world, the Flood Warning Balloon system at Kampung Kassipillay in Jalan Ipoh was a project by the Innovative and Creative Hybrid Group, Kuala Lumpur CIty Hall and the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID).
Launched by mayor Datuk Seri Ahmad Phesal Talib and DID director-general Datuk Ahmad Husaini Sulaiman last month, the system cost RM120,000.
Intrigued by the invention, I decided to take a closer look. After a nice banana leaf meal at a famous eatery nearby last week, I headed to the simple structure located just beside Sungai Batu at the other end of the bridge.
The structure was surrounded by a simple fencing with a board explaining the functions of the warning system. Armed with a camera under the hot sun, I looked high and low for the balloon, or any fabric that could be inflated into a balloon.
After some 20 minutes and having to sweat like a person who ran a full marathon, I gave up. There was nothing.
All I got were weird looks from motorists and those in the area. I even caught a man scratching his head, looking at my antics. I was compelled to tell him “rest assured anneh (big brother in Tamil), I didn’t take the balloon”.
So where is the balloon?
Residents in the area claimed the balloon “went missing” hardly two weeks after the system was launched.
“There was a balloon. Then we saw some City Hall officers visit the site and now the balloon is missing,” said a teacher who lives in the area.
“We welcome such a project but it should have been tested properly before it was launched. It has been raining almost daily and we are afraid of water entering our houses and destroying our property.”
City Hall confirmed the balloon was brought down on Jan 7 as it was believed to have been punctured by firecrackers.
Another resident said she welcomed the system but said it had yet to be tested and was unsure if it would do the trick.
“We have to start from somewhere. But it may not work for some as there are many high-rise buildings in the area and this could block the view of those staying in landed homes which would be badly affected by the floods,” she said.
“We should address the root cause of the problem. One would be to widen the river and ensure there are various outlets for water to flow.”
Regular motorists along the main road were clueless over the existence of the balloon.
“Not fun fair, ah?” asked an elderly man on his trusty EX5 while another young motorist smiled and said: “I thought the balloon was an advertisement for a furniture shop.”
Here we have a noble intention which ought to be embraced by the people. Ahmad Phesal had hoped residents and road users would provide feedback on the system and it was only right if City Hall sent its men to the streets to get the sentiments of people in the area.
Hopefully, this project would mushroom in other parts of the city and country to alert those staying and commuting in flood-prone areas.
But let’s make sure that we test the system thoroughly prior to launching it.
Efforts must be made to ensure people understood the importance of such an initiative as it could save properties and even lives. People, too, should play a part and appreciate such projects. Everyone loves a big balloon.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malay Mail Online.