Rescue personnel monitoring the situation in Kampung Iboi last year. -- Courtesy pic
Rescue personnel monitoring the situation in Kampung Iboi last year. -- Courtesy pic

KAMPUNG Iboi villagers in Baling, Kedah, are overcome with fear when they see an overcast sky for a good reason.

On July 4, 2022, a massive deluge, accompanied by logs and mud flows, swept away a house with three people in it. The three lost their lives in the tragedy. All in all, 12 villages were destroyed in the deluge following a three-hour downpour.

Six days later when Hari Raya Haji arrived, those who escaped were still in flood shelters. We do not want to create the impression that the July 4 deluge was the only flood in Kampung Iboi's history. Sure, there were others, but none to match it in its devastation.

Since then, the villagers have been calling on the government to build dams to prevent similar tragedies. Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor did indeed announce a month following the disaster that two sabo dams will be constructed along Sungai Kupang.

A check by this newspaper on Monday confirmed that there was no work-in-progress at the designated sites. Promises, promises.

Now we learn from state Public Works, Natural Resources, Water Supply, and Resources and Environmental Committee chairman Mohamad Yusoff @  Munir Zakaria that the sabo dams would only be completed by Dec 10, 2026. Yusoff also disclosed that the Drainage and Irrigation Department had completed the tender evaluation exercise for the project on June 11 and work on the site will begin early next year.

Why the need for two years between the announcement by the menteri besar to the completion of the tender evaluation exercise? This is no way to treat a project of such public importance. Disaster prevention projects must never be delayed like this.

It is also a case of a bridge too far into the future for the Kampung Iboi villagers. They may have to make do with the temporary Bailey bridge as the new one connecting Kampung Iboi and Kampung Masjid Iboi is still in the design stage.

We repeat the question. Two years after the deluge and the bridge is still in the design stage? The villagers are rightly alarmed by the delay in constructing the dams. Those who are put in charge of the villagers' wellbeing must remember this: every few hours of continuous rain is a reminder of the July 4 tragedy. As they say, it is always better to underpromise and overdeliver.

If there are impediments — and there will be in projects of this nature, especially when they involve federal and state authorities — it is better to explain the reasons for the delay, rather than leaving the people in the dark. 

And there is the issue of reservoirs — three of them — built on a durian farm on Gunung Inas. Didn't one burst just before the July 4 deluge happened? What guarantee is there that one or all of them wouldn't burst, especially given the extreme weather the country is experiencing now?

Certainly, the sabo dams aren't there to trap the logs and mud flows before they reach the villages. What happens on Gunung Inas is rightly worrying the villagers at the foothills. Because they know what happens up there doesn't stay there.