They had cleared land for plantations and built roads up to the highlands with great respect for nature, the development having as minimal an impact as possible on the environment. But times have changed and times are changing. Man's chase for money has been at the expense of the environment, and the collective sins of men have led to global warming that is affecting the climate, or as the CNN weatherman had declared earlier in the week, "The weather has gone crazy". Malaysia is already experiencing this "crazy weather" since late 2005 and early 2006 when Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu in the peninsula experienced the worst flooding in 30 years, where even houses on stilts weren't spared. The northeast monsoon which comes in as regular as clockwork made a late arrival in 2006, when four days of continuous deluge in December and another four in January 2007 led to devastating floods in Pahang, Malacca, Negri Sembilan and especially Johor, displacing more than 110,000 and leaving 18 dead.
Climate change projections see more extreme weather events. And it has been noted that flood-prone areas are still under heavy development because there are no proper building guidelines. We have also experienced other geohazards: the 2004 tsunami and the 13 episodes of minor tremors between 2.5 and 3.5 on the Richter scale in Bukit Tinggi from November last year till January, an area previously classified as an inactive fault zone. However, it is not all gloom and doom. The federal town and country planners, with the help of other government agencies, will be mapping out geohazards like floods, landslides and fires in all local council areas, looking at Kedah's tsunami-battered Kota Kuala Muda district and Johor's Kota Tinggi that suffers from serious flooding, for a start. Areas marked "high", "medium" or "low risk" will show flood-prone land, or places which could be in danger of landslides or at risk of fire. More importantly, says Mohd Jamil Ahmad, who heads the department's research and development division, the geohazard map will help local authorities take remedial steps to reduce the risks faced in established towns and villages, and prevent unbridled development in risk areas. A start is being made and we must all, citizen and government, work together to fight the degradation of our environment and prepare to face the consequences of global warming.
Edited from News Strait Times 2 Nov 2008