Working 10 hours daily to keep river filth-free

GEORGE TOWN: Sometimes, you will be turned off by what you see in Sungai Pinang after a downpour.

You may come across a refrigerator, tree trunks, chairs, mattresses and even carcasses in the river.

And the rubbish scooped up from the river daily could fill up two lorry loads, said Penang Irrigation and Drainage Department contract worker Alamin Dewan, 30.

Lately, he said he and his colleagues had been working 10 hours every day to keep the river filth-free.

Roads such as Jalan P. Ramlee, Jalan Sungai Pinang, Jalan Patani and Jalan Datuk Keramat, which are near the river, are hit by flash floods after a downpour.

“Rain or shine, we come here to clean the river to ensure the water will not overflow its banks when it rains. We have to ensure the river is garbage-free, ” Alamin said.

Retired city council worker Kassim Mohd Hassim, 69, who stays near Jalan P. Ramlee, said he would be worried whenever there was heavy rain, especially at night.

The road leading to his place tend to get flooded, so he would have to leave his home or risk getting stranded in his own house.

“Since I stay next to a river, the water rises fast when it rains. So I will leave my house and seek shelter at a nearby food stall whenever it rains heavily.”

Kassim said he was grateful to the authorities for building a sand wall between his house and the river three years ago.

“Although water may overflow the river banks, it does not enter my house, ” he said, adding that he has been living in the wooden house for more than 40 years.

Penang Fire and Rescue Department director Saadon Moktar said all the 830 officers and firemen in Penang had been told to brace for adverse weather conditions.

“Our preparation includes ensuring all equipment and logistics are in good condition, ” he said.

The department has 27 water tender trucks, four water tanker machines, 10 lorries, 23 utility boats, 10 Emergency Medical Rescue Services ambulances and 31 aluminium boats.

“All equipment is well-maintained and in good condition, while fire stations that are not affected by floods have been told to assist flood-affected areas.

“We operate 24/7 and we have boats at hotspots identified throughout the state, ” he added.

He said they would conduct regular patrols and provide a database for areas considered as hotspots, especially those involving the disabled, the elderly and those with health problems to facilitate rescue work in the event of floods.

With thunder clouds looming almost every night and flash floods reported in low-lying areas lately, the state has begun dredging rivers and clearing drains here.

State infrastructure and transport committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari said they allocated RM2.4mil for emergency works, including dredging and cleaning of monsoon drains and culverts.

“We have also allocated an additional RM800,000 for the maintenance of pump houses and mobile pumps.

“We are maintaining 27 pump houses and 15 portable pumps for now.

“There are also 17 ongoing dredging projects throughout Penang in facing the monsoon season, ” he said.

State environment and welfare committee chairman Phee Boon Poh urged the public to not throw rubbish everywhere but to dispose of them in dustbins.

“We have to ensure the drains are cleared and no illegal dumping of waste.

“Besides, the local authorities must lead by example, ” he said.

Phee said all Village Community Management Council must ensure their evacuation centres were clean and ready for use during emergency evacuations.

He said the state Welfare Department would also need to ensure that disaster relief aid was ready.

“The district health clinics must check that utilities such as water and electricity at these centres are in order.

“Be prepared as the inter-monsoon period is here to stay until mid-October, ” he said.