Monday, June 11, 2007

Flash floods in KL - not very SMART

I woke up this morning to read, with some incredulity, the news about flash floods in KL. This happens annually due to geographic reasons and an inefficient drainage system. As a result, a few years ago, our government embarked on a massive project to build a big longkang (drain) to channel all the flood waters away from the city centre. To pay for this project, they decided to double it up as a tolled road when there are no floods. This project is called, Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (SMART).

The project was completed several months ago and since then, our Right Honourable Works Minister, Samy Vellu, has been pressing for toll collections to start as soon as possible
. I had commented then, that it was a crazy thing to do as we don't even know whether the tunnel works as advertised. No wet testing was done in the tunnel as he claimed that the cost of cleaning up after the test is too high. Any engineer knows that you must test something in the real world before it can be certified for real use. Otherwise, it is just a toy. Now, it would seem like the SMART tunnel had failed it's very first live test. It has failed to live up to it's advertised function.

Personally, I think that with the floods last night, we now have grounds to sue the companies that design and operate the tunnel. The tunnel was supposed to carry flood waters away from the city centre, precisely to avoid the kinds of situations depicted in the picture. It's sad to see waist high flood waters within a stone's throw from KLCC. Many people would have lost their vehicles as city centre car parks are mostly underground. There are reports of hundreds, if not thousands of cars that will have to be written off today, as junk heaps. I doubt that the insurance companies would be willing to pay up on all the loses.

As for our Right Honourable Works Minister thinking of starting toll collections this Friday, I personally think that he shouldn't dream of doing that now. The residents of Kuala Lumpur could very likely rail against this action. You cannot expect the people to pay for a tunnel that doesn't do what it is advertised. In some civilised countries, this is called deceptive marketing practices and the parties involved can be hauled to court. In fact, the citizens of Kuala Lumpur could very likely do such a thing, especially if the insurance companies refuse to reimburse all their property loses. I don't think that there is any doubt that the tunnel doesn't do what it's supposed to do. Hence, it should be fairly simple to prove that the companies involved had defrauded the people of a lot of money to build an overpriced (RM 1.9 billion) longkang that doesn't even work.

Although our dearest PM is currently in his honeymoon period, I think that he should really come out and do something about it. Surely, there is a massive defrauding going on. The companies that built the tunnel have defrauded the tax payers.
If the tunnel does what it's supposed to do, I'm certain that the people will be more than willing to pay a small price for extra safety. However, since it is broken, it has to be fixed. If it cannot be fixed, well, I don't think that there will be any problems hauling more people to court for defrauding the rakyat. If any lives were lost during the floods last night, some people should be hauled to court on charges of criminal negligence as well.

We really need to stop being the laughing stock of South East Asia.
We need to work as advertised in order to inspire confidence.

*** Photo is from TheStar. More photos here. ***

PS: Even though I talk a lot about suing people, I Am Not A Lawyer! So, take it all with massive doses of salt!


123 said...

Assuming the fiasco is taken to court, may I remind you to take into account the restricted independence of the Malaysian judiciary. It goes without saying that judgments will inevitably be pro-government. Besides, let us not forget the ineffectual legal system which requires millenniums before a case is heard. Of course, this is assuming that the plaintiff has a deep pocket, reputation to risk and time.

Shawn Tan said...

It is true, that our judiciary is quite questionable, and I have already blogged about that. However, I personally feel that the rape of our coffers has to stop at some point.

After saying all that, I still think that we can all afford to dream a little. Otherwise, hope is truly lost.

123 said...

That is a good point and I very much agree to it. After much introspection, it occurred to me that judges are very much influenced by public opinion, hence, a pressure group might do the trick here. However, seeing the controversy of 'Bloody Sunday', and a string of other non-violent protests by the general public, has merely connoted terms like democracy, accountability and hope with rather bleak, unjust and excruciating consequences.

On a separate matter, it is noteworthy that I have always found pleasure reading your blog. Keep posting. Cheers!

Shawn Tan said...

ooo.. thanks for the compliment.. good do know that you enjoy it and don't find it too techie..