100 Bertam Valley residents win negligence suit against TNB

KUALA LUMPUR, May 25 (Bernama) -- The High Court here today allowed the negligence suit filed by 100 residents of Bertam Valley, Cameron Highlands, against Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), ruling that TNB was liable in causing flash floods in the area five years ago.

Judge Datuk Nordin Hassan held that the release of water by TNB, the defendant in the suit, was not a correct decision in the absence of the inflow measurement instrument.

"The court found that the defendant liable for the flood that caused destruction to the plaintiff's properties and loss of lives," he said and fixed May 30 for case management for quantum of damages to be assessed by the High Court Deputy Registrar.

He also ordered TNB to pay costs of RM50,000 to the plaintiffs who were the residents, comprising farmers and traders.

The plaintiffs had sued TNB for negligence in managing the Ringlet reservoir at the Sultan Abu Bakar Dam, causing floods in the area in October 2013.

Nordin in his judgment said the court did not see any reason for TNB not to be equipped with such an important instrument since the dam began its operations in 1963 and only realised it to have one after the incident in 2013.

"To me, this instrument should be installed at the very beginning of its operation to assist and maintaining the appropriate water level at the dam and to ensure the volume of the water to be released if necessary," he said.

The judge also said the defendant had, among others, shifted the blame of deforestation, intensive agricultural and disposal of garbage as the cause of the said problem which continued to persist.

"In this regard, it is undeniable that those activities contribute to the problem of sedimentation and the release of rubbish in the reservoir, but as the owner of the dam who has a duty to ensure among others to the residents down street and their properties, it is the defendant's responsibility to take all the necessary measure to maintain the water level at the dam at the safe level particularly during the monsoon season."

"One of the step is to conduct the large scale dredging regularly irrespective of the costs to be incurred as lives and the properties of the residents is of almost importance," the judge said.

Nordin said the danger of releasing waters which caused flood was acknowledged by the defendant since 2011 as the defendant officers wrote in the article in this issue and the defendant would have taken the appropriate measures in 2011.

"Undisputed fact that there was no water inflow measurement instrument installed at the dam before the incident, it was only installed after the said incident. This instrument is important to know the water inflow in the reservoir and would assist the defendant's employees to decide the amount of water to be released at the material time on the basis of the principle outflow and inflow," he added.

The residents who were represented by counsel M. Manogaran had filed the suit on Nov 2, 2015 claiming that TNB had released water from the dam to Sungai Bertam at 12.20 am on Oct 23, 2013 following heavy rains the previous day without any warning.

In the statement of claim, the plaintiffs alleged that at 1 am the same day, TNB again released water to Sungai Bertam, resulting in flooding in areas downstream the river.

At 2.45 am the same day, they said, more water were released by TNB into the river, resulting in floods which destroyed properties and claimed four lives.

They said that TNB had acted negligently when it opened the spillway at the dam three consecutive times without giving any warning to residents that they did not have time to evacuate and move their belongings to higher ground.

The plaintiffs claimed that TNB also failed to manage the dam properly, keep it clean and stop rubbish and debris from accumulating in it, which were among factors contributed to the floods.