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January 19, 2022

What is the short- and long-term impact of the flooding in Malaysia?

Malaysia (and many other parts of Asia) has seen the worst rain in decades, causing serious floods across the country in the last weeks. Large areas have been inundated, and hundreds of thousands of residents evacuated to emergency relief centres.

Floods are common in Malaysia during the yearly monsoon season between October to February. They tend to happen more on the lesser populated east coast of Malaysia’s Peninsula. However, this time the rain was extremely heavy. In addition, we have seen an unusually high sea level, probably due to “super” typhoon Rai which hit Southeast Asia in late December. The rains hit densely populated areas between Kuala Lumpur and Port Klang, and many housing areas and industrial estates got flooded. While the water levels have partially subsided, more rain is still expected. Many people lost their homes and belongings, factories ceased operations and reported heavy losses due to affected machinery. Klang’s flooded port area costs many millions worth of damaged cargo while many access roads remain closed.

Pahang is one of the most important log supply regions in Peninsular Malaysian, and the state government has implemented a temporary stop to all logging activities. It is not sure how long this will last. There was already a shortage of logs and rough sawn timber due to last year’s three-month closure of all logging and sawmilling operations due to Covid restrictions. This new logging stop will certainly result in an extreme shortage for the rest of this year.

As mentioned before, floods are nothing new in Malaysia, but this year it is worse. People are fed up with the government’s inability to forecast and mitigate such flooding. Over-development, insufficient drainage, destruction of natural forestlands, and the lack of coordination between various government departments are reasons why flood control has lagged during the last 20 years of Malaysian development. Ordinary people will continue blaming logging as the most visible cause of global warming. This will further increase the pressure on the Malaysian government to limit the use of the country’s natural resources.

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