Poor drain maintenance causing floods in the city

By Jonathan Edward and Juliana Menon

KUALA LUMPUR, April 4 — Poor maintenance of drains and irrigation canals has reduced the flow carrying capacity of the city’s drainage system triggering flash floods during thunderstorms.

An official familiar with the city’s infrastructure who spoke on condition of anonymity said some drains in the city were now only able to handle half the water they were built to handle.

“From a purely infrastructure point of view, KL’s drainage system is excellent. There are certainly enough drains and canals but there is a chronic lack of maintenance,” the official said.

“Silt, garbage and other obstructions are reducing the carrying capacity of the city’s drainage system by up to 50 per cent and causing flash flood.

“Consistent failure by City Hall to ensure timely maintenance of drains would see more floods in the coming weeks as bad weather is expected to last into this month.”

The official said the public should also take the blame as they had largely contributed to the clogged drains because of indiscriminate dumping of garbage.

“As long as drains remain clogged, with more debris dumped in the flow system, and with heavy rains persisting, the problem of flash floods will occur,” the official said.

“Urgent remedial work is needed to alleviate the situation but there has been no improvement for years and the public is largely apathetic until there is a flood.” 

According to the Meteorological Department, the ongoing Northeast Monsoon will continue to affect nearly all the states, including Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.

Also, the much vaunted Strom Water Management and Road Tunnel (SMART) had failed to mitigate floods affecting the capital city last month.

Bad weather and heavy rain are expected to persist well into this month before a respite and the Southwest Monsoon which will last between May and September.

However, a spokesman for Syarikat Mengurus Air Banjir & Terowong Sdn Bhd (SMART) said the tunnel had in fact seen little inflow and the road service provided by the tunnel was unaffected.

The SMART system is the most prestigious underground storm drainage and road structure ever constructed for providing additional protection against flash floods in Kuala Lumpur. 

The catchment area is equipped with a dense network of 19 rain gauges and additionally supported by 11 rain gauges which are now operated by SMART and the Department of Drainage and Irrigation.

Department operations chief Amiruddin Alaldin said the main reason for flooding despite the SMART tunnel was because of the three tributaries of the Klang River. 

“We have made diversions and water catchment areas at two of those namely Sungai Kelang and Sungai Gombak,” he said.

“However, we are still in the midst of doing the same for Sungai Bunos.” 

He said the water catchment area at Sungai Bunos would largely stop the floods from occurring as the excess water which flowed into the river will be contained. 

“It will secure the water flow in the river. As soon as it is completed, we will be facing less flooding in the city when the project is completed next year,” he said.