Malaysia Floods and the Clock Ticks

on Thursday, January 18, 2007

West Malaysia has been hit by floods for the last two weeks. Some 20 people have died and an estimated 100,000 have been evacuated to temporary shelters. Both in extent of damage and in surface area affected, it is being called the worst flood in 100 years but it may well be the worst flood on record. Much of the southern state of Johor is flooded and many parts of neighbouring Pahang as well.

The floods were due to extremely heavy and prolonged rains in combination with high tidal levels at the coast which preventd the flood waters from disappating into the sea. In the opinion of this observer, it is no coicidence that this is happening in 2007, the year climatologists
believe will prove to be the hottest year on record for the whole world. It is another predictable weather event associated with climate change.
The economic cost will be high. Immediate damage costs is estimated to be at least Ringgit 100 million. Another Ringgit 500 million has been pledged to help businesses recover. Palm oil production, one of the main sources of income for the country has been down 30% since November.
Disease is the next concern. Much of the environmental ills in Malaysia is rearing its head during this crisis including its polluted rivers with untreated sewage and open landfills. For these reasons, outbreaks of waterborne diseases is a concern. Already 2 have died and another 5 others taken ill by the relatively rare rat urine fever or leptospirosis.
Neighbouring Singapore is also experiencing flooding but not to the extent and severity of the Malaysian floods and many people are asking why. In my opinion, the major contributing factor has to be the state of Malaysian rivers and drainage canals. Due to lack of protection of watersheds from logging and development, we get rapid runoff during rains causing rivers to swell quickly. The rivers are also chocked with sediment from hill developments which affect their ability to cope with extra rainfall. Lack of river basin management also causes the rivers to be choked with solid waste.
Another contributing factor on the Malaysian side is the loss of the mangroves which when present can act as a buffer, reservoir for flood water and reduce the impact of tidal levels.
Coincidentally, the Doomsday Clock has been adjusted by scientists on Wednesday the 17th January 2007 to 11.55 pm, an advance of two minutes towards Doomsday. This symbolic clock has been maintained since 1947 to show how close man comes to destruction. This was the 18th time the clock has been adjusted over the years, both forwards and backwards. In the past, the main concern was nuclear war.
On this occassion, the proliferation of countries like North Korea with nuclear capability was one reason for adjusting the clock but also for the first time, climate change was the major factor.
Cosmologist and mathematician Stephen W. Hawking said global warming has eclipsed other threats to the planet, such as terrorism. "Terror only kills hundreds or thousands of people," Hawking said. "Global warming could kill millions. We should have a war on global warming rather than the war on terror."

"We are transforming, even ravaging the entire biosphere. These environmentally driven threats -- threats without enemies -- should loom as large as did the East-West divide during the Cold War era," said Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society, Britain's academy of science.
We may have already entered the Day After Tomorrow.


Dave said...

LGS... Stephen Hawking could not have said it better ... "Global warming could kill millions. We should have a war on global warming rather than the war on terror." Thanks for the mind awakening quote!

I am sorry to hear about the effects of the prolonged rain. It seems that the government has not been as prepared as they should have.

It is unfortunate that some people (and I emphasize SOME) choose to not include environmental effects to their plans for logging and solid waste management.

All the best LGS ... take care fo yourself. Please continue to keep us informed.

squirrel said...

Thank you so much for the information. I love your blog. Hearing the perspective of someone in Asia and who is a scientist is very interesting. Are you from there or just there because of your work?

Le Nightowl said...

This is terrible.
Northern Europe is suffering from huge storms right now :(

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Mankind likes to think we are intellegent. Let's hope we are intellegent enough to take action and stop the clock from advancing further. Will we listen to Stephen Hawking?

thanks for your kind words. I am Malaysian but I studied in Canada many years ago and still support Team Canada and Ottawa Senators.

le nightowl,
Sorry to hear of your storms too. Keep safe.

Jocelyn said...

I feel like I have to read your blog to get any international news--heaven forbid U.S. news would cover anything like this. Sigh. How tragic this flooding is.

Josie said...

LGS, this really scares me. What is going on? Have you seen news reports of the hurricane force storms in Europe right now? Marie has a link in her comment here on your blog.

And we have had hurricanes on the west coast this winter, with thousands of huge trees pulled right out of the ground.

What can we do to stop this from going any further?


Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Happy to be your news service. Hope for better news to share. There is much news that we don't get in our part of the world too. I find BBC gives the best unbiased coverage.

I don't know what to say. It is frightening. If you imagine a see saw which is beginning to tip, that's probably where we are. We will already suffer some severe consequences and there is nothing we can do about it. But there is still time to avoid the situation mentioned by Stephen Hawkins of millions killed(see-saw fully tipped). If we make real efforts, it may be possible to reverse the situation in a few decades. If the see-saw tips all the way, it may be a permanent shift with no forseeable way of reversing the situation. Nature herself may eventually correct it but in hundreds of years.

Nobody listened when 1500 top scientists gave the warning in 1992 but Stephen Hawking has some clout. Perhaps they will listen now.

Becky Wolfe said...

I was just reading about the doomsday clock this week also. But I was not aware of HOW BAD it was in Malaysia so I appreciate that I can get the facts from someone actually there!

I'm a firm believer that things are NOT going to get better but only much worse. Not pessimistic because it would be wonderful to 'reverse the effects' and enjoy our planet for many milleniums to come but I'm a Bible believer & so I don't believe that its going to get better.

As strange & unusual weather is occurring all over our planet you are right, global warming is the biggest war we're facing!

Dave said...

OTTAWA SENATORS????? You serious???? What about "them" LEAFS ????? :-))

Just giving you a hard time! LOL

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I know what you mean about believing that the world continuing to deteriorate but I think we shouldn't stop trying to do what is right. The flood situation in Malaysia is improving. About half the refugees have returned to what is left of their homes. Government is now admitting that costs may reach billions in Ringgit.

already answered your hockey jibe over at your site.

Becky Wolfe said...

Yes, as a nature lover, I DEFINITELY agree with you in our continued efforts for conservation & attention to our planet.

Glad to hear the flood waters are receding. But the clean up will certainly be costly.

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