Wednesday, November 18, 2009

To die over a leaking water pipe!

On 28 October 2009 I posted on this blog a short article entitled ‘Our Little Sacrifices-The Tragedy of Kuala Dipang, Kampar’. Therein I criticized a certain callous mentality besetting our national life, characterized by the following traits: lacking maintenance mentality, the capacity of anticipating dangers and taking preventive measures, and lacking respect for the sanctity of human life, subverting it to other short term or immediate gain. In the particular context of my article, sloppiness led to the loss of three young lives.

Part of my article reads: ‘The tragedy of Kuala Dipang maybe unique in manifestation, but I believe the same principle is at work throughout our national life. Sloppiness reigns supreme everywhere, exacting heavy human costs. It is not necessarily a bridge the next time, could be a bridge, a building, a condominium, even a whole section of a road, just anything really’.

On the way to work today, I picked up a free copy of the Sun at the LRT station. The front page headline reds: ‘Landslide report declassified’. The article covers the findings of the technical committee report on the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide disaster on December 6, 2008, which claimed five lives and destroyed 14 bungalows. The Selangor state government had decided to make the report available to the public and interested parties, especially those  affected.

My memory flashed back to the time of the disaster and the news coverage of the event. I remember distinctively the statements made by parties deemed responsible then, all seemingly leaning towards the natural disaster theory, sort of ‘an act of God’ kind of explanation and rationalization. On the whole the tenor was defensive, dismissive and rather evasive of responsibility or blame.

Now with the declassification of the report, we have the story. The main cause of the landslide was ‘a leaking water pipe along a row of abandoned houses’ which according to the analysis ‘caused moisture build-up and weakened the slope’. Other factors contributing to the disaster included the loosening of the soil during development, the lack of maintenance, damage and lack of maintenance of the drainage system in the areas surrounding the landslide’.

Wow! In short, sloppiness strike again then, costing lives, human suffering, as well as huge losses. Just imagine, people actually died because of ‘a leaking pipe’ as the main cause behind the tragedy! Then it was top by callous development, presumably driven by the profit motive, with no regards for safety and sanctity of human life. Make special note of the lack of maintenance for the drainage in the area mentioned, which says a lot on the attitude towards public accountability and social responsibility.

Few points strike me further on this episode. The area hit was an up-market residential area and not the cheaper public housing category. So it would seem to me, even the upper class of our society are not being spared falling prey, victim or even sacrifices to sloppiness. It makes me wonder also just how many more of such stories of sloppiness devouring human lives remaining buried. In this instance we get to know only because the report had been declassified by the Selangor state government.

Well, if even the rich or the affluent are not spared (one tend to assume their greater affordability perhaps could buy better service and quality of life), how can we be sure where sloppiness will strike next! And with the creepy thought of people actually dying due to a leaking water pipe, compounded by general sloppiness, how can anyone sleep peacefully at night or feel safe at any time for that matter!

PS: On page 5 of the same Sun edition referred to above, there is news of a landslide near the Cheras Awana Flats, with the caption ' Three cars, motorcycle buried in landslide'. There is a gruesome picture of a car 80% buried by landslide.

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