1. Every year the east coast states would suffer from floods, with loss of property and lives. In Kuala Lumpur and other cities and towns flash floods following heavy downpours occur regularly several times a year.
2. We accept these floods as a climatic feature of Malaysia, as something which must happen. It is God’s will. There is no way we can stop them. And so we make preparation for the victims – food and evacuation centers. We commiserate with those who lost their loved ones.
3. The architects of Malaysia are not satisfied with just repairing the damage by the floods. In particular they want to prevent motor vehicles parked in underground car parks from being “drowned” as water pours down and fills up the multi-storied underground parking lots.
4. So now they build six-storeyed car parks above the ground. The residences and hotels have their first floor seven storey above the ground.
5. The cars are saved from the flood waters. But the buildings look ugly especially when no attempt is made to decorate architecturally the bare openings around the car parks to the outside.
6. A better and more attractive design would be to maintain the underground car parks but with the first floor of the building, (lobby or entrance hall) raised to about 12 feet or more above the level of the street or the road.
7. The building’s first floor must be about 12 feet plus from the road level with concrete walls surrounding the space below the first floor extending down to surround the car park bellow the building. The space between the wall and the road can be filled with earth and grown with grass and flowering plants.
8. A ramp must be built from the road to the entrance of the building at the first floor. Another ramp must be built for the cars to drive down into the multi-storeyed car park below. The car park must be enclosed by solid walls and floor. There must be good lighting and security.
9. The road or street will become virtual drains during floods due to rain or tide. This will help the flood waters to drain quickly into the canals or rivers as soon as tide goes down or rain stops.
10. On the east coast where floods regularly occur during the monsoon rain, the simplest solution is to go back to building houses on stilts like the old Malay houses. The first floor of the houses must be above the highest flood water mark.
11. The stilts supporting the houses must be sturdy and buried deep in the ground. Concrete should be used.
12. Steps can be built leading up to the first floor as in the old Malay houses. A ramp can be built so that the cars can be driven up for to the first floor during floods. There should of course be an entrance to the house from the raised porch for the car.
13. Government spends quite a substantial amount of money for flood relief. By insisting that houses be built on stilts this money would be saved. Part of the savings can be used to subsidize the cost of the stilts at least initially. The house-owners or occupants too would save money.
14. Architects can design these stilts so as to look attractive. In fact a competition for new styles of houses on stilts should be held if this idea is accepted.
15. In Malaysia the only town which built houses including shop-houses high above the road is Beaufort in Sabah.
16. Incidentally I was born in a house on stilts. The first floor of my Seberang Perak house is 4½ ft above the ground. The land is very low and during springtide river water used to flood the ground under my house and around it by a few inches. It does not do so now because of dams upstream and a barrage downstream.
17. But the northern plains of Kedah get flooded after heavy rains in Southern Thailand and North Kedah. Still the flood waters never reached the raised floor of my Seberang Perak house.
18. When I built my own house in Titi Gajah, I decided to raise the ground by about 2 ft. A concrete wall 2 ft high was built round my land and it was filled with red earth.
19. The ground floor of the house was at a slightly higher lever, about 3 ft. I decided to build a basement about 1½ ft lower. The window of the basement was about 4 ft above the floor. Outside the basement I heaped up earth to a level just below the windows. The kitchen was also at the level of the basement.
20. During springtide tide flood waters did not get into my kitchen or basement. But during big floods water did get into the kitchen and basement but not high enough to damage the hot plates or refrigerator.
21. The new housing estates in Kedah are all built on existing ground level. Where the ground is high they are safe. But those built on the low land areas will get flooded.
22. If we don’t do something, every year thousands will have to be evacuated and a few will lose their lives. And lots of money would be wasted on food, evacuation and repairing flood damage.
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad
Fri Jan 03 2014
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