Malaysia Floods – Kelantan Politician Calls for Better Monitoring of Land Clearances

The role played by deforestation and land clearances in the December floods in Malaysia is at last gaining some recognition from political quarters.

Speaking on 22 February 2015, and reported by Bernama, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, MP for Gua Musang, Kelantan, acknowledged the role of deforestation and uncontrolled land clearing for logging and agricultural activities as one of the main causes of the massive floods which hit Kelantan state in December 2014.

“I don’t dismiss the possibility that these activities had caused the recent major floods, and residents in low-lying, food-prone areas in Hulu Kelantan must be prepared in facing the monsoon in future.”

According to Bernama:

These activities had resulted in the riverbeds of several main rivers, especially Sungai Belatop in Lojing, to rise and the rivers to overflow during heavy rain in the monsoon season. He called on the authorities to monitor closely the land clearing and logging activities to protect the environment.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has been a Member of Parliament since 1974. He is a major political figure in the state of Kelantan and considered one of the Malaysia’s elder statesmen.

Over 20 people died in the floods in December 2014, which are considered some of the worst to have hit the region in years. At their peak, the floods forced over 200,000 people from their homes.

Deforestation and Floods in Malaysia

Deforestation has been a factor in the increase in flooding in many parts of Malaysia over the last few years. The Cameron Highlands, close to Kelantan, is a mountanous area which has suffered from several deadly floods in recent years, most notably the Lake Ringlet disaster. Hillsides in the area have been stripped of trees and now offer little protection from rainwater runoff.

Example of deforested hillsides in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia. Photo: Kelantan
Example of deforested hillsides in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia. Photo: Kelantan

In July 2014, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel announced plans to tackle illegal logging and land clearing. Floods struck once again in November 2014, leaving 3 people dead.

Since then the Environment Minister has announced the planting of 1 million trees for the area.