By James Gough & A. Jeyaraj
There is good news ahead for residents along Sungai Pari and Sungai Pinji. Under the third rolling plan of the 10th Malaysia Plan, RM50 million has been allocated for the flood mitigation project which since the first attempt failed in 1992, hopefully should stop the flooding which has besieged residents of Pari Garden, adjacent Lim Garden, Merdaka Garden, Hock Aun Garden, Gugusan Manjoi, Tai Le Village and Buntong especially the last big one which happened in the early hours of 20 February 2012 when the Pari River overflowed its banks and flooded many of the suburbs that ran parallel alongside it.
Failure of Flood Mitigation Project in 1992 Cause of Current Woes
A resident of Pari Garden that lies adjacent to Lim Garden had awoken at the usual time of 6am and walked into a watery kitchen floor to realize that the Pari River was flooded, a sensation he hadn’t felt in over ten years ago.
At Lim Gardens school children going to the nearby Tarcisian Convent had to wade through a flooded road knee deep high for 50 meters to get to school. Similarly motorcyclists were seen pushing their vehicles through the flood waters and further up on Jalan Hassan a motor car was seen motionless with flood waters swirling round it’. Merdeka field off Jalan Lumut was a ‘placid lake’ while a former resident of that area recalled it was over 20 years since he had seen Lim Garden experience a flood of this extent.
At Gugusan Manjoi the situation was worse. At 11am when Menteri Besar Dato Seri DiRaja Zambry Abdul Kadir toured the location the water level at the Pari River was almost the same height as the top of the river bund. Here over 150 people had to be evacuated and another 20 families had to be moved to the nearby community hall.
At the homes located parallel with the river the flood waters were still 1 foot high while at the other bank Search and Rescue personnel were seen ferrying the sick and elderly by boat to their lorry to be evacuated. The scene at Jalan Raja bridge Manjoi was very busy as MBI personnel were seen clearing debris from under the bridge which was hampering the flow of flood waters. Four lorry loads of debris had already been removed and more trucks were waiting to be loaded.
On the eastern river bund 300 meters from the bridge a technician was repairing a pump which failed to discharge water from the retention pond back to the Pari river while 1km upriver at Merdeka Gardens where the discharge pump was working no flooding occurred.
Root Causes and Proposed Solutions
Datuk Abdul Razak Dahalan, Director of the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) Perak when interviewed said ‘the flooding at Lim Garden and surrounding areas on 20 February 2012 was due to excessive rain fall. An exceptionally heavy four hour downpour had caused a sudden increase in the volume of water flowing into Sungai Pari’. He cited the case of flooding in Thailand which was due to heavy rainfall.
Razak also said that ‘the floodgates along the river were damaged while the fibre floodgates were stolen’ explaining that if garbage is thrown into the drain then the rubbish would get stuck between the floodgate and pipe and the gate would not shut tight resulting in a backflow of water. Razak added that after the flooding, RM2.5 million would be spent on upgrading and replacing the floodgates.
He said that the housing project in Lim Garden is one of the earliest approved projects where the houses were built on low lying areas.
Initiative by DID
A report titled ’Flood Risk Mapping for Pari River’ done by River Engineering and Urban Drainage Research Centre (REDAC) of USM Engineering Campus, 2002 states that a flood mitigation project for Pari River was initiated by DID in 1992 originating from Meru River at the upstream down to Kuala Pari Village at the downstream, covering a length of 8km.
The report added that ‘flooding in 1996 and 1997 proved that the flood mitigation had failed to control the floodwaters’ adding ‘that the river bunds were breached causing water to overflow to surrounding areas’. The report also stated the affected locations which were the same affected locations this year.
Studies on Pari River
According to Razak many studies have been carried out about flooding of Sungai Pari and the problem was identified as early as 1930. When asked whether the recommendations of these studies were implemented, Razak responded that only a few of the recommendations had been implemented due to lack of funds.
The RM50 million allocation for the new flood mitigation project will include the following:
Retention Ponds: Three regional retention ponds will be built. One is currently being constructed at Merdeka Garden at a cost of RM3.8 million and is scheduled to be completed by November this year. Two others will be built upstream. Additionally a number of mining pools along the river will be converted to catchment ponds. Currently these mining pools have been leased to individuals and acquisition of the land is in progress.
Upgrading of bridges: All low decked bridges such as the Jalan Raja bridge Manjoi will be raised. This job would be jointly done by DID and MBI. Bidding for one of the bridges is already out. The level of the service deck adjacent to the bridges will also be raised.
Replace retaining slabs: Concrete retaining slabs along Sungai Pari has fallen off in many places. These slabs will be replaced by stones.
Upgrading of drains: The state government has set up a fund for the upgrading of drains. All developers in the state carrying out project works must contribute to this fund as some drains over 40 years old are damaged and do not serve their function.
Successful Example Set by Kinta River Mitigation Project
As the DID implements the Pari River flood mitigation project, it is hoped that their endeavour this round will be a permanent solution, similar to the Kinta River mitigation project. The Kinta River Flood Mitigation Scheme was launched a year after the 1926 ‘Great Flood’ in Ipoh which inundated Old Town and its goal was to make Ipoh ‘Flood-Free’.
The scheme was exercised in three phases (1929-1930) and included constructing a channel through Ipoh Town, diverting the Sungai Choh and clearing the Kinta River and its main tributaries. The scheme worked but flooding still continued though not as seriously. Subsequently the Perak State government together with five major mining companies undertook to divert and straighten the Kinta River. By the 1950s the project had straightened 38 miles of river from Ipoh to Kuala Chenderiang which resulted in Ipoh not having seen a major flood since.
Hopefully too flooding on the Pari River will be history in the next few years. To borrow the words from a song, “Success is Lovelier, the Second Time Around”.