Keywords: Malaysia, flood hazard management, flood forecasting, flood warning, traditional flood coping mechanisms
The Malaysian flood hazard management program
Flooding is the most severe hazard in Malaysia, a country experiencing a wet equatorial climate with heavy seasonal monsoon rains. In the past, nature took care of itself as vast expanses of forests and wetlands soaked up rainfall excess and delayed the flow of water into rivers. Indigenous peoples are also well adapted to seasonal floods, as their lifestyles and livelihood on floodplains have evolved over centuries as adaptations to floods. Officially, Malaysian flood management is based on structural and technological measures to "control" floods. This is, however, only partly successful, as non-structural measures are under-employed. Moreover, the application of high-tech solutions can only be effective if the public/victims understand it, cooperate and respond effectively to them. Often, sophisticated (imported) engineering structures and flood control systems are alien to the public, who are only accustomed to traditional systems. Costly structural schemes give rise to a false sense of security and may in fact be more costly to victims. Frequent failures of structural schemes often lead to a lack of confidence on the part of victims. Flood hazard in the country is also dominated by a top-down approach, with little input from locals/victims who have vast knowledge of floods and proven traditional coping mechanisms. Thus, there is a need to integrate the official flood management program with traditional systems to save lives and maximise flood-loss reduction. There is also a need for Malaysia to integrate the concept of sustainable development into its development policies towards flood hazard reduction.