Xavier: Penang flood mitigation project will start in April

Minister Xavier Jayakumar (third from left, seated) at the briefing with Drainage and Irrigation Department officials from Putrajaya at Lilitan Stadium today. With him are state secretary Farizan Darus (third from right, seated) and state exco member Jagdeep Singh Deo (second from left).

GEORGE TOWN: The federal government will take “creative approaches” to reduce flash floods as it gears up to begin a major mitigation project on a problematic river in April next year.

Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Xavier Jayakumar said as Penang island has a scarcity of land , some of these “out of the box” approaches might prove challenging.

These new approaches for the Sungai Pinang river will include tube wells and underground rainwater storage ponds besides the usual canals, he said during a press conference at Lilitan Stadium here.

Xavier said his ministry would focus on widening the river first from Patani Road to Dato Keramat. Work on this will begin by April 2019 and will be completed in 2023.

He said RM150 million had been approved for the Sungai Pinang Flood Mitigation Project (FMP). This includes building earth levees to prevent flooding.

He said further federal funds of RM600 million for the Sungai Pinang flood mitigation project would come in steadily under the 11th Malaysia Plan.

The 3.2km Sungai Pinang river has a catchment area of 50.97 km sq, with six main tributaries — the Dondang, Air Putih, Air Terjun, Jelutong, Kecil and Air Hitam.

The three-phased Sungai Pinang FMP was initiated by the federal government in 1998 to address frequent flooding problems.

The first phase of the project began in 1998 with the widening and deepening of the river, from the estuary to the Jalan Patani bridge, at a cost of RM6.45 million.

The second phase was carried out between the Jalan Patani bridge and Dobby Ghaut near Dato Keramat in 1999.

The final and third phase was to focus on the final upstream portion of the river. It is two-pronged — to improve the water quality, and to widen and deepen the river.

This particular phase was delayed as the city council had to first remove squatters by the riverbank. The squatter settlement has since been cleared.

However, funds for the final phase never came from the federal government and hence the project never took off.

Last year, after the historic November floods, the Penang government budgeted for flood alleviation projects worth RM351 million. These projects will be completed by 2020.

Xavier said to tackle floods on mainland Seberang Perai, his ministry would study flood-prone areas such as Penanti, near Bukit Mertajam, to come up with a solution to drain out the excess rainwater.