PETALING JAYA: Takiyuddin Hassan has been asked to understand the difference between an act of God and human intervention when disasters strike.
An environmental activist told the energy and natural resources minister that he was wrong when he described the recent floods in Gurun, Yan and Merbok in Kedah as an “act of God”.
Eco-tourism and Conservation Society Malaysia (Ecomy) CEO Andrew Sebastian said Takiyuddin was taking the easy way out by brushing everything with a single stroke and declaring it an act of God.
“The undeniable fact is that almost all floods are caused by human intervention,” he told FMT.
He said human activities were responsible for almost all the increase in greenhouse gases, causing an increase in temperature and heating up the world.
“We are losing control or livability with mother earth, in terms of extreme weather patterns.
“We are feeling and seeing the effects happening right around the world and right here in Kedah,” he said, adding that the intervention includes land clearing and development.
Due to that, Sebastian said, Malaysians are likely to experience more intense weather patterns, especially during the year-end period with more landslides and more flash floods.
Instead of blaming it on nature or God, he said the government needed to take immediate measures.
He urged the government to immediately freeze land clearing and protect all permanent forest reserves in all states, including Kedah.
Takiyuddin had said during his visit to the site of the floods that he saw trees washed away by the floodwaters still had their roots. This, he said, meant they were not from logging activities.
“This is what we call destiny set by God. An act of God,” the minister claimed.
We need better planning to fight floods
Another environmental activist Irshad Mobarak said rainforests are like sponges that hold water and release it into streams and rivers.
Through the ages, he said Kedah had removed much of its lowland rainforest to make way for rice farming. In more recent times, the development of smaller towns had caused a higher runoff into low-lying river basins.
“Thus, these areas have become prone to more flooding.
“Rain is an act of nature. But we should put more thought into being better prepared for flooding,” Irshad told FMT.
He said cities and human settlements should be designed to reflect the environment.
“If you live in a river basin that is prone to floods, you should be better prepared to adapt or face the consequences,” he added.
Historically, Irshad said, kampung houses were designed to handle the environmental conditions the people lived in.
“It had to not only deal with sweltering heat but with Malays being farmers and fishermen, their homes were usually built close to water sources such as rivers,” he said.
They were built on stilts, sometimes two metres or more above the ground, to withstand and survive floods.
“Unfortunately, many homes today are built of brick and mortar from ground level.
“This means that when big floods occur, these homes become vulnerable, causing damage to property and maybe even result in loss of life,” he said.