Backgrounds and Needs

The risk of disasters, especially of natural disasters such as floods and landslides, is not yet urgently and keenly discussed in Malaysia society. However, there are potentially high disaster risks that confront the Malaysia society, as the society becomes more rapidly urbanized, modernized, and industrialized that all lead to a very complex and highly inter-dependent societal system where a chain of disaster events can be triggered by an unexpected incident. A typical example of such disaster in complex & inter-dependent society is a recent flood of 2011 in Bangkok, Thailand where highly populated urban area and economically vital industries of foreign companies are heavily damaged over a long period.

The key issue is that too rapid urbanization, modernization, and industrialization bring a lack of preparedness for the society to face catastrophic events such as flashfloods, large fires, power blackouts and even epidemics, because nation wide awareness and concerns for safe & secure measures against disaster is not yet nourished. For example, recent climate change brings frequent & intense guerrilla rainstorm in KL that often results in flash floods to cause human casualties and housing damages. In such an event, a huge economical loss due to interruptions in traffics and commercial activities and furthermore environmental & health disasters may occur if there is no proper flood warning and training. A careful plan & study to build a safe & secure society through disaster risk reduction strategies is a basic necessity for the society, especially to build internationally reputed urban society, such as Kuala Lumpur.

In Malaysia, the main guideline for DRR is given in The National Security Council Directive No. 20 on Policy and Mechanism on National Disaster and Relief Management that was put in effect on May 1997. This Act was put in place to unite the coordination mechanism at central government level, after several tragedies such as Highland Tower building collapse of 1993, and Genting Highland Landslide of 1995.

After establishment of Act No.20, the South Asian countries, particularly of Indonesia, experienced a catastrophic disaster in December 2004 that is the Indian Ocean Earthquake & Tsunami disaster with the death tolls over 250,000. Malaysia suffered a death toll of 68 peoples from this disaster. Thus the government further enforced on DRR by allocating about USD 2 billion (RM 6 billion) in the Ninth Malaysia Plan from 2006 to 2010 to deal with multiple hazards with different approaches, including flood mitigation, multi-hazards monitoring and early warning systems, etc.

After the 2004 Tsunami, South East Asian region continued to experience devastating disasters, such as the 2008 Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar. In December 2008, Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction was held in Kuala Lumpur, and ASEAN countries have signed Kuala Lumpur declaration to further enrich the ASEAN coordination on DRR. Also Malaysia government is working closely with UNISDR (UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction) which is a UN key organization for DRR, promoting a global DRR framework of Hyogo Framework for Action (2005-2015). Adaptation of Climate Change is a key strategy for the government, and the National Policy on Climate Change was established in 2009. The government continues relevant efforts during the Tenth Malaysia Plan (2011-2015) by allocating approximately USD 1.7 billion (RM5 billion) for flood mitigation, early warning facilities, disaster preparedness and other measures.

Malaysia government recently published a review on DRR progress as National progress report on the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action (2009-2011) in November 2011. The government overviews the country's DRR state being fairly advanced in disaster response and recovery, but still needing of establishing a national disaster reduction policy and also a formal DRR platform so that multi-stakeholders of DRR including national, local and municipal governments, private sectors and community leaders can collaborate. Currently DRR implementation is yet in the hands of individual organizations and more multi-sectorial collaboration on DRR is needed. As a large urban city consists of activities by multi-stakeholders and multi-sectors, a collaborative framework, strategies and efforts through more frequent exchanges of information and discussion on DRR is needed and the proposed Research Center can act as a hub for integrating various DRR efforts among the stakeholders.