Why is Penang turning into the Venice of the East?


The floods in Penang last night created a lot of hardship and frustration. Let’s take a look at some of the root causes of the recurrent floods in Penang:

  • Concrete jungle development increases surface run-off
  • Hill cutting and hill-slope development
  • Indiscriminate development and lack of green open spaces
  • Poor drainage/clogging of drains
  • Poor planning and oversight by the previous BN administration
  • Climate change and rising sea levels?

Some of you have a good idea of what’s causing these repeated floods. But first, let’s hear from Dalbinder Singh Gill, who recounts his nightmare last night. He also discovers a little-known highway development:

I used the Jalan Tun Sardon road back to Bayan Lepas as the road from Batu Feringgi to Tanjung Tokong was closed due to a fallen tree. It took our 5-star authorities 90 minutes to clear one tree. WOW. I decided to U-turn and go up back. I should have stopped at a friend’s place but no, I used the road through Teluk Bahang-Balik Pulau-Bayan Lepas. I went through eight major landslides and eight major flood areas. Yes, I suffered (from the) massive floods. Having a big Bomba station up in Batu Feringgi-Teluk Bahang area is no use if the authorities do not know how to do its work. DAM IT!! In fact at certain strecthes we as drivers got down from our vehicles with umbrellas bracing through strong winds to clear some debris leaving small space for us to pass through as we dare not U-Turn or just stay there as we were fearing more rocks and trees and debris (after-rape products) to fall. Yet the newspapers reported that the authorities were busy clearing them up. Bulls*** or maybe not at the time when i was using that road.

Now I personally know how the rakyat are suffering. Yes, I had to pass urine in my water bottle thanks to our 5-star public toilet system and its locations. Along those roads, a major highway is being built. Isn’t the normal land road enough? Sounds like the previous government was making money behind closed doors like building this highway through the outskirts so nobody knows and the rakyat wont make noise as well especially those from the kampung whose voices are far from being heard. Yes, good way of making money. Our environment has been raped. Let’s do something: saying no to the reclamation of land is the first step.

Wet-wet-wet thinks hillslope development is responsible:

The authorities should study the root causes of the floods. Not just the clearing of rubbish that clogs our drainage systems, not just de-sludging or desilting of rivers. They should effectively ban development on hillslopes. They should increase the ratio of open space to paved-over areas in development projects to minimise surface run-off. Large carparking grounds should not be paved over with concrete or tarmac but should be made water-permeable, with intermittent concrete-grass surfaces. Rainwater discharge from roofs should be retained for re-use. Introduce closed system road drains like in Ipoh, so that rubbish is not discarded into drains. It requires more than just the knee-jerk responses we’ve seen from the previous administration.

Sam Gopal who lives in my apartment block, the basement level of which was submerged in knee-deep water, points the finger at the cutting of hill slopes:

All the problems can be traced back to the indiscrimate cutting of hill side slope along Bukit Gambir. Hope the state government can pull up all these developers who are raping the hillslopes along the whole of Jalan Bukit Jambul and Bukit Gambir.

Further south, in Bayan Baru, Anthony Tan says the lack of maintenance to land reclamation canals is to blame:

When the the south eastern coast started reclamation works in 1987, the water discharge from Bayan Baru area and its hinterland like Sungai Ara, Relau etc were extended further out by some 1.5km to 2km. It is all fine if the water discharged channels were deep to allow proper outflow to the sea. As far as I know, part of the deepening of these discharged channels were packaged with the reclamation work to deepen it. It was carried out according the the contract. But these channels were recommended to be maintained regularly – not more than every five years – by deepening it due to tackle the siltation.

From 1988 till now, there is no sign of any maintenance to these channels, so are we looking for trouble? There are already warning signs given to us now that urgent work needs to be done immediately – but when?

The people of Pantai Jerejak and Bayan Baru are looking forward to the state government to take action immediately where the BN have failed to carry out.

If nothing is to done immediately, we are just waiting for a major disaster to strike which is going to cause a lot anger, hardship, loss of property and even life. Prevention is better than cure in this instance.

Coming to a general point on flood in Penang, many areas have been experiencing floods especially the notorious Jalan P Ramlee and Sungai Pinang area. We are so proud of achieving 51 years of Mederka but this problem existed even before Merdeka and yet the BN government talks about … mega projects in Penang under their care for so many years. The flood problem has been there for donkeys years but nothing has been done to resolve the problem; no wonder the BN was sacked in Penang. What happened to the cleaning up of Sungai Pinang and how much has been spent? What has it achieved and where is the report on the project? Was it a success or failure?

For Plain Truth, the buck stops with former Chief Minister Koh Tsu Koon:

This is nothing new. Every time there is a heavy downpour, many parts of Penang island flood. KTK had failed to solve such a basic problem plaguing Penangites despite enjoying the trappings of office for eighteen years.

Penangites have only themselves to blame for keeping such an incompetent CM in office all those years.

Perhaps some of you could also share with us what you think is causing the floods over on the mainland.

On the bright side, if nothing is done to stop future floods, perhaps Tourism Malaysia may want to consider marketing Penang as the Venice of the East.

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8 Dec 2008 2.11am

Gerakan has achieved it intended goal for Penang at last…to make Penang the Venice of the east, Penangites have it all!

8 Sep 2008 8.13pm

Penang changing into Venice? I would not go so far as to say that but if the deforestation goes on it most certainly will. Look what is happening to the Pearl of the Orient, it’s former luster has gone for sure! I would agree with flyer168, it all happens for the mighty dollar. deforestation, so more townhouses and multi story developments can be build for people who at the most stay 3 weeks in a year! would it not be far more profitable to do really something about the filth in the sea? Would it not be much wiser to… Read more »

claire wilson
claire wilson
8 Sep 2008 7.00pm

Oh boy am I glad that a good Dutch friend of mine send me your page, jeez, absolutely love it and I would love to share my findings with you. no I’m not a born and bred Asian, Dutch as a matter of fact. My Australian husband and I have been living in Penang for just under 3 years and love it. actualy I fell in love with Malaysia 15 years ago. I have been urged by many people to start writing here in Malaysia about Malaysia. amongst them many medical specialists and/or professors. I have been told that my… Read more »

8 Sep 2008 2.00pm

Why are Malaysians so nice about their homes being messed up everytime it rains?

Why won’t people get together and sue the developers for damages? Sue the Council!! Sue whoever else is involved in approving such irresponsible developments. Sue Koh Tsu Koon while he is still alive!! This is a crime! Why are are they getting away with it?

And,stop blaming God! God did not cause these floods. These people did.

8 Sep 2008 10.07am

i would have said it is the poor drainage system. also penangites’ attitude of throwing rubbish in the drain and river!! i live in bayan baru but was at macalister road (near new lane) when the flood happened. the hawkers at new lane said this was the first time after so many years their area flooded so badly. i hope our present government will do something about the flood. even with only 2 hours of heavy rain, some areas will be flooded, and one of them is anson road where i have to use daily going to work. using the… Read more »

8 Sep 2008 9.46am

Truth is we are experiencing climate change. I don’t turn on my air-cond in rainy days. Some five years ago, I turn on my aircond on maybe 3/4 of the year. Last year I was still using my air cond maybe 25% of the year. This year, I have used my air cond less than 30 days so far and its going into the end of the year when I tend to use less. But the other problem is no doubt development and lack of infrastructure. If you go to Singapore, you won’t get a good idea how much the… Read more »

8 Sep 2008 9.20am

Dear Anil, A very well written article on the “Pearl of the Orient” being abused, neglected & destroyed for $$$ now resembling the “Venice of Asia” with every heavy torrential rain incident. As we all understand, the greatest British Engineering achievements in Malaya were based on the simple study of the winds, the Relief- terrain, the mountain peaks, the jungle/forest trees/undergrowth & the weather/rain pattern to locate, plan & build our “Reservoirs” all over this nation which have been successful for many decades. Unfortunately, Man in their greed for $$$, decided to rape the jungle/forest, then went further to cut… Read more »

8 Sep 2008 2.43am

too many BN loud mouth on the Island, thAt’s why..

8 Sep 2008 1.31am

Whatever the causes, don’t let Penang fall for that ploy in KL where they built a so-called ‘Smart Tunnel’ at some $billions which, as the Auditor General has reported, was opened for Toll collection even though till today the concessionaires have not complied with CF requirements and where the retention ponds are still only half way to completion. Apparently, now if it rains heavily in KL neither the tunnel nor the retention ponds can take much more water. Which goes back to the spin only put about last year by the DID that the ‘Smart Tunel’ can only resolve 1/4… Read more »

8 Sep 2008 1.07am

let see what the pakatan gov can do abt it??? now time for them to proof their talks.otherwise they are talking c*** too

8 Sep 2008 12.47am

Hi Anilnetto,
I am glad and happy for the flooding and the landslides. At least now, people are waking up to the blatant environment destruction.
You can read my story here http://forestexplorers.blogspot.com/2008/09/flooding-in-penang-people-are-waking-up.html

robin hood
robin hood
8 Sep 2008 12.28am

‘You can not blame me or anyone because this is the doing of the hand of God’
– Samy Velu

mist clearing
mist clearing
8 Sep 2008 12.10am

pretty obvious that mr.koh is a proxy for the umnoputra.a GEEK swimming with a bunch of mamaks shark

china apek ...
china apek ...
8 Sep 2008 12.04am

I am a Penangite and am so proud of the current CM of Penang and DAP/PR govt … get this picture of the CM that turun padang …


when was the last time we see KTK turun padang and do something???? can anyone remember???

for the rest of you readers from other states … next GE get someone who actually works in public office – PR – the only choice!

7 Sep 2008 11.53pm

I live in Bayan Baru. I am so angry with this whole flood situation. The flood in July this year caused me a damage of about 30K and now again another flood. This is really unbearable. It is a total nightmare for me and my family and the people who are affected by this flood. The politicians should come live here, do the cleaning up and also pay for the damage and see how that feels. The last government has failed to stop this problem. Is the new government going to do something about it? I have already emailed DAP,… Read more »

malaysian niah ...
malaysian niah ...
7 Sep 2008 11.29pm

what cause floods … hmmm technically it is mother nature. but you can’t blame mother nature forever because mother nature has been giving rain for time immemorial. but when you have people like KTK in public office and his super illustrious education background that reads Princeton, Uni of Chicago, Fullbright scholar-trained management ‘skills’ and ‘competence’ – we the penangite end up having floods. therefore it’s a lesson to learn to never ever put academics in public office, please follow the example of global corporate – their top people are harden experience people not academics. this is a classic case of… Read more »