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Plant more trees to absorb the water
Published on: Sunday, August 20, 2017

By Joshua Y C Kong
Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah, saw 147 mm of rain fall in the 24 hour-period between 06 and 07 October 2014.

Have we forgotten the yellow water cross of the Donggongon round-about?

In fact the heavy rain has been falling since Saturday 04 October 2014 and has inundated low lying areas across the state.

Parts of Kota Kinabalu, Penampang, Inanam and Tuaran were said to be under one metre of water.

Villages in Penampang district have been badly affected and many people have been evacuated to higher ground, away from the flooded areas. There are unconfirmed reports that several houses have been swept away.

There have been various heavy flash floods.

Now in 2017, the Meteorological Department recorded 133.44 millimetres of rain on Monday 14 August, 2017 and 86.8 millimetres on Sunday.

Heavy rainfall coupled with high tide resulted in flash floods in areas like Penampang, Kota Kinabalu, Menggatal, Lido and Likas.

Mayor Datuk Yeo Boon Hai said the rainfall was double or triple to what was recorded normally which is 30 millimetres to 50 millimetres per day. Would we now face worse rainfall in the near future?

We may blame anything on such scenarios of excessive rain as climate change, storms, typhoons in the region or any other nature backlash and we are no more land below the wind. Even Mount Kinabalu and Ranau have been vibrating since June 2015.

We are now convinced that the heavy rainfall seasons have become regular although there had been some very dry spells too – both intolerable due to the rising temperature.

Many may blame that the drains and rivers also could not handle the excessive flow of rain water resulting in not only flash floods but floods lingering longer than usual. Many also pointed fingers at the blocked drains including monsoon drains, not regularly cleared of debris. That may be so but what about the very excessive rain as pointed out by the authorities.

So the main cause of our floods in a vast area in west coast, especially in and around Kota Kinabalu, is the very excessive rain which is actually God serving us a final notice that we are already in a devastated environment especially the very much depleted pristine rainforests where mono crop alien oil palms now have taken over the millions of acres of habitat.

Can we now deny that it is not due to the excessive mono crop in alien oil palm for the oil we sell for the economy to be oiled?

We all know that rainforest trees would suck up all the water around the environment and store it in the trees to be emitted gradually into the atmosphere. So rainforest is the water tank in that aspect.

I have been harvesting coconuts in my area for almost a year and realise that in dry seasons the coconut would not be loaded with coconut water within while when the environment is wet, the coconut water would be filled up in those coconuts (between .5 to 1 litre each).

So even coconuts can store up excessive water and they can only do so much with fewer trees around as they are chopped down by the authorities for various reasons.

If we have 1 million healthy coconut trees with about 100 m nuts (100 per tree), we would have something like 100 m litre of water in those nut over a short period.

Pristine fully grown forest trees would thus contain more water within them.

In a scenario of high temperature and high evaporation, all those water vapour would be retained in the atmosphere and the low clouds temporarily.

If such clouds are not blown away or more such water laden clouds are moved to Sabah, then the downpour would be excessive in a matter of days. This time round there is no strong wind.

During the Borneo Biodiversity and Ecosystem Conservation (BBEC) for the first period of five years 2002 to 2007, I attended many forums where I always insisted that the alien mono crop oil palm plantations should be frozen. The response was largely lackadaisical and even hatred was seen on the faces of the oil palm plantation operators.

My passion for environment improvement or maintenance has inspired me to write three books namely Water (2005); A Tussle in Biodiversity of Two Liquids –Palm Oil and Water (2006); Biodiversity Challenge – Haze, Health, Hell (2006).

So now what can we do in urgency to resolve any flooding matters in our midst?

Immediately, there is a great need to bring relief to the victims and where would such massive relief costing hundred millions of Ringgit of losses of assets and resources come from?

Would those well to do oil palm planters chip in their generosity as a way to pay back to society in good and bad times? We need to address such inevitable suffering.

The other effort to mitigate climate consequences is to plant trees in our own vicinity rather than chopping them off for whatever reasons.

There are still plenty open spaces and idle land so much neglected or unplanted.

A lot more concerted effort in environment arena/frontier namely land, forests, rivers, mangrove swamp, and coastline including coastal coral reefs need to be implemented.

My passion for pro-active environmental effort is that I have registered a new NGO “Caring Earth Society of Sabah-CARES”.

Also we need to conduct the first ever Sabah Environment Expo or See Sabah 2017 to resolve whatever environmental issues with an Environment Blue Print to avert the worsening consequences of whatever climate we encounter.

It is a limitless challenge to face worsening climate and all must play our parts well.

In Sabah, the climate is bordering on 35 deg C and elsewhere it is going on to 60 deg C.

We need to address the escalating heat in a dying earth with diminishing vegetation in Borneo.

Joshua Y C Kong

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