Plans, people and floods : the problems of urbanisation in the Klang Valley, Malaysia
Urbanisation in Malaysia's Klang Valley has been increasing rapidly. In order to accommodate the growing population, massive land use development is taking place. Much of this is occurring on the flood plain of the Klang River, seriously exacerbating the problem of flooding and inflicting suffering on local residents and damage to their property. These problems have occurred within a context of blurred and divided administrative responsibilities. The Klang River and its tributaries flow through both the State of Selangor and the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur. The governments of these two entities have divergent development visions that place differing weights on the importance of environmentally sustainable planning. The consequence of these disagreements has been continued construction on the flood plain and ever more serious flooding. This research illustrates these themes -- and the problems that result from lack of coordination in planning and development -- through an examination of the effect of flooding on two settlements. One is the settlement of TTDI Jaya in Shah Alam, Selangor, built and managed by a property developer, and the other is the squatter settlement of Kampung Haji Abdullah Hukom in Kuala Lumpur. The impact of flooding in these two study areas is examined through a questionnaire survey and interviews. Household strategies in these two contrasting communities are compared in terms of preparation against flooding and adjustments to property and lifestyle. The psychological effects are considered, alongside economic, social and physical impacts. The research also examines the effectiveness of flood control measures in the light of the continuing occurrence of flooding. It analyses the role of local community committees, effective leadership and political involvement in protecting the rights of the effected communities to live in these settlement areas and make their voices heard. These questions are considered within the context of a broader examination of the relationship between land use development planning in the Klang Valley and the problem of flooding. The research concludes by arguing that a coordinated approach is needed to planning within river basins and that this planning should be informed by an understanding of river basin systems. It draws attention to the importance of adopting `soft' approaches to flood management and mitigation. Finally, it questions conventional assumptions of greater security against flooding enjoyed in middle class settlements by suggesting that strong community cohesion can lead to a relatively more favourable outcome for the residents of otherwise less advantaged settlements. A materially poorer but more vibrant society can be considered better equipped, it is concluded here, and more resilient in the face of disaster.