Floods in Kuching: Is the Barrage any use?


Update on the floods:

Kuching flood background here.

Background to the role of the Kuching Barrage here. Note that many people dispute the effectiveness of the barrage, calling it a useless project.

CM Taib Mahmud did not make any statement on the Kuching floods at all. Instead, he was more interested in celebrating his golden wedding anniversary. How not to conclude that the CM is out of touch and beyond his use-by date? See his birthday party details here.

Businesses were badly affected by floods. See details here.

As for George Chan, he is of the view that Kuching folk need not worry anymore since the floods are over. But damage has been done. Here is another politician who appears to be out of touch.  See his view here.

Kuching and surrounding areas have been hit by floods, which has now receded. The Sarawak river overflowed its banks and water poured into the city. Floods also occurred in Sibu, Bintulu and the gold-mining town of Bau.

My friend over there says, tongue-in-cheek, that it was caused by an “act of God”.

More seriously, he thinks any combination of the following factors could be responsible for the flooding: heavy rainfall, high tide, historical factors such as poor planning of city buildings in the flood-prone plain.

Global warming too?

All “made worse by the useless barrage project which was supposed to control floods but which does not. Just a project for cronies”.

Another Sarawak resident claims that with the barrage, the water from the upstream to the sea is slowed down. “It is very complicated as the government says the barrage is not to be blamed but many persons-on-the street seem to think so.” For a sample of what Sarawakians are saying, check out Sarawak Talk.

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Another possible factor, he adds, is the causeway across the Muara Tebas.

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    The Sarawak River Barrage has been instrumental in reducing the impact of flooding in some parts of the city.

    “The flood scenario in some low-lying areas could have been worse if not for the barrage,” said a spokesperson from Kuching Barrage Management Sdn Bhd.

    “Based on the rainfall data collected in the past few days, many low-lying areas in Kuching would have been flooded but were spared as the barrage has been able to control the floodwaters.

    “In areas where there are floods, it only lasted for a few hours. Among others, the barrage is built to control fluvial and tidal flooding in Kuching. It never says to prevent flooding, but it can mitigate and minimise the impact,” he told a group of visitors from SUPP Youth Central here yesterday.

    The group was led by its chief Tan Kai who said they wanted to learn more about the barrage’s function first hand and see if the barrage gates had malfunctioned as claimed by some people in the last few days.

    Over Dec 24 and 25, the state capital received more than 200mm of rain. The heavy downpour plus the occurrence of King Tides between 6m and 6.2m have caused some areas in Batu Kawah, Petra Jaya and Bau to be flooded.

    The spokesperson said the barrage gates had never failed to function since they started operations in January 1998.

    “They have never malfunctioned once until today,” he pointed out.

    He explained that whenever there was heavy rainfall detected upriver, the gates would be opened immediately within 12 hours to flush out water downstream.

    He said when it rained heavily on Dec 25, the gates were opened as usual to flush out excessive water and closed after a balance in pressure between water from upriver and downriver, or when water level at the barrage gates reached 8m to 8.5m.

    Therefore, he said it was untrue for the public to think that the barrage was one of the contributing factors to the floods.

    “After the barrage was built, the discharge of water volume increased by 25% although there is one river channel to the sea instead of two channels previously,” he said.

    The spokesperson also said the sizing of the barrage was based on the 1963 flood event with discharge of 3,500m3/s based on five gates of 25m width.

    “The sixth gate is a contingency plan. If the situation is more severe than the 1963 flood, the constriction effect comes in. If the situation is less severe, the barrage alleviates flood,” he said.

  2. seriously …. i was very pissed off when i saw the water slowly seeped into my house. why didn’t people talk about the condition in sarawak? i can only lament on our people’s reticence. where is our freedom of speech?! **** those chowderheads (referring to our freaking corrupted head(s) of government)!!

    i cannot believe that the barrage is of no use to our ppl AT ALL. how delusional.

  3. As to my understanding, the barrage is a component of the master plan for flood mitigation measures for the Sungai Sarawak water catchment. It is effective in preventing the king tide from coming and prevent flash flood to a certain extend.

  4. This is the result of cutting down the forest in Sarawak. Rain water is dumped into the rivers. Taib Mahmud is (allegedly) the cause of the flood.

  5. Many comments both official and unoffical have been made each time there is a flood in Kuching. The 2009 flood was it as bad as the last one in 2004? Perhaps just as bad but the media didn’t highlight some of the areas as intensly this time like they did in 2004. Was it due to the fact it was supposed to be a happy week for Sarawakians on the 50th wedding anniversary of the state’s chief?

    I have heard of floods in the same areas as before. Locals blame it ignorantly or otherwise on the barrage and causeway across to Bako. I am pretty sure these two (the barrage and causeway) played a role in the flood. To what extend, perhaps one will have to go further back into history of floods in Kuching and its surrounding areas and make comparisons then and now.

    You also have to take into account development factors. Greed drove developers to clear and build on low lying swampy lands. Not only are these buildings notably houses and shophouses expensive, they are poorly built and prone to cracks and sinking. In certain areas drainage are not even properly built. The local councils are equally to be blamed for granting the permit to build on low lying areas. Sarawak is a large state with a relatively small population. Couldn’t they approve places that though further away are less prone to floods and other problems?

    Did the current construction of the Benggoh dam further away from Kuching contribute to the floods especially in the village of Giam?

    Two things that strike me about the floods this time in Kuching.

    First, we have a Deputy Chief Minister who is in charge of the state disaster management unit. At the height of floods, he says these places cannot be reached even by helicopters due to the bad weather.Hey what kind of disaster management plan is that? Get suitable helicopters that can fly anytime anywhere. We managed to send Dr SMS to space!!! Surely if Malaysia Boleh, so can Sarawak Boleh.

    Secondly and surprising even the lifts at the Sarawak General Hospital was affected by the flooding at its basement level. The four lifts’ doors were jamed. Another two which was under ‘repair’ or something to that effect had to be used instead. I have never heard of the Sarawak General Hospital ever been affected by the floods. So why this time? Could it be due to the renovation works that is currently be done?

    So finally who or what do you blame? Mother nature? Greed? Barrage? Development? Well of course first and foremost we need to blame ourselves for voting clowns into the government in the first place. Instead of servicing the people, these clowns are taking all for a ride. If doesn’t rain over the Chinese New Year period (king tides during that week as well), all will be forgotten of the 2009 floods until the next floods hit. It will keep coming back until we truly understand what we have done or contributed to its causes.

  6. My goodness, did the authorities really sell the barrage project as a flood control measure ? What fools they really take us to be…

    Barrages are used in various places around the world to raise the level of a river upstream of the barrage, to make it more useful for boats or shipping , channel part of the water for irrigation or hydro-electric power. A barrage, by definition, is a free-flowing barrier across the river, has no effect on the nett amount of water flowing through it, hence has absolutely no use for flood mitigation.

  7. i need to learn more about this flood cause Kuching is my hometown.. The only fact that i know is that the Kampung villages there are flooded badly

  8. The barrage is totally useless. It’s nothing but an (alleged) scam to enrich the … cronies. The story making the round is, the barrage was built to prevent the level of the Sarawak river from going down during low tide. (The story making the rounds is that a certain leader’s) Indonesian bomoh advised him that his fung shui will be better if the river bed is not too exposed. His mansion is (near the river).


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