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A MAJOR economic and societal catastrophe may soon confront one of Southeast Asia’s most important economies: Malaysia. So powerful and transformative could be this event that it could potentially disappear up to 12,745 sq km of national coastline. And this natural event will likely start happening within a decade or so. As a result, Malaysia will be forced to put new national priorities in place – before it is too late.
If this natural calamity does take place, it will result in a major portion of Malaysia’s national heritage being given over to the sea. Critically, it will have a ruinous impact on the people and economy of Malaysia, as storm surges and massive coastal flooding, in effect, swallow up huge areas of their homeland.
To put this potential disaster in graphic real estate terms, so that the enormity of the problem is made abundantly clear, the total loss of prime land could come up to 1,274,500ha of urban coastline and fertile agricultural landmass. Or put another way, it could result in the disappearance of an area about the size of 17.5 Singapores. Obviously, the unthinkable disappearance of huge swathes of God-given land, never to return, would cripple Malaysia’s destiny.
Deceptively tranquil seas
Admittedly, along 450km of low-lying shoreline on the Straits of Malacca, from Kuala Perlis to Kuala Kedah, from Bukit Mertajam to Teluk Intan, and on down to Port Dickson, everything still looks pretty much everyday normal. There appears to be no identifiable crisis within sight.
The same can be said for the populated coastline at Malacca, and then south towards Sunga Ramba, and then on to Muar and Semerah and Batu Pahat. There appears to be nothing much to be concerned about at all, or so it seems.
But you would be wrong.
The same perception of serenity is also evident along Malaysia’s eastern coastline. About 220km of intermittent low-lying coastlands, running from Kuala Terengganu to Tg Sedili, appear immune from any seaward threat.
Likewise, at the southern boot of Malaysia, from Pengerang to Kg Sg Rengit to Kg Punggai, there’s no visible suggestion that outlying seas could soon transform the face of Malaysia.
And while the Malaysian government, like most governments, is heavily armed with all available facts about the worrisome advance of sea levels worldwide, it, no doubt, still perceives that threat to be somewhere over the horizon – decades away, in fact.
Otherwise, it would not be jeopardising its survival by selling the very resources it will need to protect itself against this threat, namely sand, to its neighbours and beyond.
Climate change – code red
This is despite conservative yet stark scientific predictions and details of their obvious implications showing the inevitability of seismic coastal flooding occurring in low-lying areas around 2040-2050 if carbon emissions aren’t reduced significantly.