Tuesday, May 21, 2024

CIDB: Developing For Disasters

Landslides and floods are natural disasters that Malaysia has to always stay on top of. They can cause significant damages to cities, properties, and infrastructure. Most importantly, the general public can get seriously injured during these events. Infrastructures play a crucial role in society, as they can help save a person’s life or they could potentially make a bad situation worse. The result of this is that infrastructure developers must play a pro-active role in every single stage of the project so that their structures can help the people, even in the worst of times.

Landslides

The Guidelines for Landslide Vulnerability Assessment and Risk Analysis for Critical Infrastructure (CI) in Malaysia, published by CIDB, defines landslides as a significant amount of earth or rock collapsing from highlands, which are terrains that are above 300m from Mean Sea Level (MSL). The guideline also reveals that in Malaysia, highlands make up about 22.83% in Peninsular Malaysia and 38.96% in the Eastern States.

Generally, they occur due to the soil mass wasting process, which is when the earth moves downwards on a slope due to the force of gravity. Their structure weakens even more as they travel downwards, especially if it is liquefied due to heavy rain during monsoon seasons.

In a study conducted by the US National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA), Malaysia is ranked 10th among the top 10 countries predisposed to landslides in the world, with an average of 18.5 occurring every year. Beyond damages of private homes and businesses, critical infrastructures, such as hospital, schools, roads, dams, and even water pipes or power lines, can cause severe problems to everyone in nearby towns or cities.

Floods

When an area that is typically dry collects an unexpectedly higher than average amount of water, that is when a flood can occur. It could happen in a matter of days, or it could happen in a matter of hours, the latter generally identified as a “flash flood”. Just like landslides, floods can cause damages to infrastructures, especially roads. In more extreme scenarios, the water could carry large and heavy debris, causing severe damages to property and harming the general population.

If a drainage system was blocked or, as mentioned above, the rain falls faster than the system can handle, a flood is very likely to happen. Another common scenario, especially in Malaysia, is that a river overflows with too much water.

Many Malaysian towns were built alongside rivers and developers must consider this to ensure the safety of the people. CIDB dedicated to the research and development of better construction practices, conducted a study at Sungai Pinang river basin in Penang, a contributor to floods in the area, to analyse the flood patterns and how to approach them. During a major flood in 2017, they discovered that river levels would rise as high 22.62m and it affected 41 different locations. The study also refers to a statistic which reveals that, in 2003, floods caused upwards of RM 11.414 million worth of damages to infrastructures across 256.3 hectares of land in Penang.

As the saying goes “Prevention is better than a cure.” The importance of planning and research should not be overlooked when developing new infrastructure for mitigating floods and landslides. Indeed, while natural disasters cannot be avoided, developers can take extra steps to ensure that infrastructures can tolerate the harsh reality of nature.

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