1. I am happy that the new Sabah government is taking the incident of flooding in certain districts in Sabah seriously.
2. In respect of the flooding in Penampang, a very concerned Sabahan spoke to me and suggested interesting solutions. According to him, the main river that drains the Penampang valley is the Moyog River or sometimes referred to as the Putatan River. In the old days, in the 1800s the main river outlet to the sea went through the area south of the main town of Putatan. In the early 1900s, the villagers decided to make a drain to irrigate the Kodundungan padi lands connecting the drain to a small river called ‘Papas Nabangkung’ to the sea near Petagas. As the old river turned almost 90 degrees at the Terawi junction, every time there was very heavy rains the river flowed along the newly-built drain eventually making it the main river outlet. After this new development, big floods in Penampang was quite rare as the water flowed smoothly to the sea.
3. Nowadays, flooding in Penampang occurs almost every time there is very heavy rains. The flooding could be due to a number of reasons. Firstly is the sandbar at the mouth of the Moyog River. The sandbar impedes the smooth flow of the river. In impeding the flow of the water into the sea, the water backs up resulting in floods. During the Colonial Times, before 1963, the sandbars at the mouths of the main rivers used to be removed by dredging. The removed sand can be used by the construction industry. This practice seemed to have been discontinued.
4. Secondly is the encroachment of the riverine reserve especially along the river after the Petagas Bridge. The river banks have been reclaimed and houses built on them. This situation resulted in the narrowing of the river impeding flow of water especially during heavy rains.
5. Thirdly is the expansion of the airport runways into the sea directly opposite the mouth of the Moyog River. The flow of water directly into the sea and outwards has been blocked, resulting in the river water being redirected along the shore instead of straight out to the sea. This has impeded the draining of water from the river causing floods.
6. Any solution for the flood problems in Penampang needs to address its causes, namely removal of the sandbar at the mouth of the river and at the same deepening it and providing a channel for a smooth flow of river water around the airport extension. A much needed solution is widening of the river especially after the Petagas Bridge by removing buildings that have encroached on the riverine reserve. Not only that the width of the river should be made wide enough to cater for the heavy rains that occur on the Penampang plains.
7. The old river, which the locals referred to as ‘Bavang Napatai’ (Kadazan word for ‘dead river’) that was cleared and widened at the Terawi junction as a solution to the flood problem, has not made any impact on the flood situation in Penampang. This junction is almost at a 90 degree angle. Flood waters normally go right through along a straight line.
8. I hope these suggestions could reach the state government especially my friend YB Dairell Leiking who has been trying hard to settle the flooding in Penampang disctrict for a few years already. Please consider these suggestions.
9. Thank you.
Sabah PAS Legal Head Unit