Warning behind flood of biblical proportions

The floods in the East Coast and other states at the end of December were almost of biblical proportions, with over a quarter of a million people displaced from their homes.

Jan 08, 2015

Anil Netto

By Anil Netto
The floods in the East Coast and other states at the end of December were almost of biblical proportions, with over a quarter of a million people displaced from their homes.

Some could see a hidden hand behind the floods. “The flood is a reminder to all Muslims to return to ‘Allah’s ways and stay away from His wrath,” said Nik Mohamad Abduh, in remarks that astounded Malaysians. “It necessitates the perseverance of the Kelantan government to implement hudud laws,” he said.

Indeed, many Malaysians, especially those from minority faiths, watched nervously as a Dec 29 vote for a special sitting of the Kelantan State Assembly to table and pass amendments to the Kelantan Syariah Criminal Code Enactment (II) (1993) loomed.

The move would have paved the way for a private member’s bill to be tabled in Parliament on amending the Federal Constitution to allow Kelantan to implement hudud law in the state.

But rising waters outside the State Secretariat, the venue for the special sitting of the state assembly in Kota Bharu put paid to this plan.

Just three days before the tabling of the amendments, another obstacle emerged. Kelantan Menteri Besar Ahmad Yakob found himself stranded, unable to deliver aid to flood victims in his Pasir Pekan constituency. “I apologise to all the rakyat, especially those in my constituency as I am currently facing difficulty trying to go out and distribute aid because I am also trapped as water has started to enter my home.”

The tabling of the Bill was postponed indefinitely. And many, especially among minority faiths in the country, heaved a sigh of relief.

Now, whether you see a divine sign in the floods or otherwise, one thing is clear. The human imprint behind the floods is unmistakeable. A report on the environmental website Mongabay.com in November 2013 revealed that Malaysia had the world’s highest rate of forest loss between 2000 and 2012, based on a global forest map developed in partnership with Google.

“Malaysia’s total forest loss during the period amounted to 14.4 percent of its year 2000 forest cover. The loss translates to 47,278 square kilometers, an area larger than Denmark,” said the report.

Environmentalists had long warned that our degrading of the environment would come at a severe cost to future generations. The only surprise now, perhaps, is that it is our generation that is beginning to pay the price.

Someone else asked a pertinent question: who profits from the logging and who pays the price? Again, it is a tiny minority, the beneficiaries of timber concessions and the illegal loggers who profit the most. Was there any corruption involved? What were the relevant authorities, responsible for the environment and for monitoring our forests, doing while our forests were being cleared?

Coming on the heels of the severe dry spell and water shortage in the Klang Valley, the floods should make us sit up and pay attention to climate change.

A senior meteorologist with the National Weather Centre was reported as saying that most of the weather stations on the east coast recorded almost double the regular amount of rainfall for December.

But few of those in power seemed overly concerned about the impact of climate change.

Ironically, the movie Noah, which has a strong environmental message which some say could spur more people to take action against climate change, was banned in Malaysia last year.

But you can’t ban floods from submerging the land unless you live up to your role as stewards of the environment. Certainly, the floods have shown us that climate change will not spare Malaysia. Around year end, a freak wind-storm blew off roof-tops from hundreds of homes in southern Penang Island. Kedah witnessed mini-tornadoes last year. Even the shocking recent downing of the AirAsia plane was partly attributed to bad weather.

The Bishop of Rome’s forthcoming encyclical on climate change and human ecology cannot come soon enough. In October, he said, “Monopolizing of farm lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth.

“Climate change, the loss of diversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness.”

Indeed, if current trends for emissions and environmental degradation continue, this century will witness dramtic climate change that could destroy the ecosystem.

We should take to heart Francis’ prophetic warning: “Safeguard Creation. Because if we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us! Never forget this!”

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