Recently, Brunei had been experiencing landslides. The occurrence of the landslides is because of both natural and human factors. This can be seen as a dual process that intermingle both the factors together. Natural and human factors can not be held liable for the cause of landslide as a single unit as both factors are well connected. The occurrence of such disaster in the region has not been caused only by the natural factors and not solely be caused by the human factors.
The natural factor which cause landslide in Brunei is because of the elevation of pore water pressure by saturation of slope material from either intense or prolonged rainfalls (Geoscience Ausralia, 2009). By this, it weakens the ability of the soil to hold the ground due to the permeability of the soil to lose its original profile (nutrients).
However, the most influence factor that cause landslide in Brunei is the human factors. One of the human factors that cause landslid is due to deforestation. Deforestation is one major causes of landslide not only in Brunei, also over the world. Due to the intense rainfall, as it weakens the ability of the soil, with cutting of vegetation, it destroys the existing mechanical root structure in the area and causing landslides.
On the other hand, not only due to deforestation, modification of slopes by construction of roads, railways, buildings, and others also can be considered one of the human factors. In Brunei, it is common that houses are built at slopes in Brunei, especially at Kota Batu, Subok, etc. As can be seen in Appendix 1, it shows that the landslides blocking the road and also can be seen that, the house is nearly crushed by the trees that were brought along during the landslides.
As mentioned, the factors (human and natural factors) of the landslides cause problems to the victims. One of the major problems of landslide covers many aspect namely social, political (infrastructure), economical and environmental problems to the sultanate; in which these aspects are inter-related that one aspect can not be blamed for the occurrence of landslide in the region.
Firstly, in terms of social problems, landslide has caused fear among the citizens who potential victims from the landslide. Precautions have taken for the safety of these residents in which they were told by the authorities to evacuate their homes before the landslide occurs. Some of them decided to stay with their respective relatives while others may stay in hotels.
Even though this can be a way of preventing the catastrophe from happening, it is not desirable and pleasant for the evacues. For instance, the houses of their relatives in which the victims are currently living with or the hotels in which they are staying in could be far away from the office or the workplace for them or the schools their kids are studying in. This is said to be a problem as it might have an effect to their work and also to the studies of the sutudents whose houses are stricken by the landslide.
If the victims decided to stay with their relatives, there is also a possibility that the relatives along with their families could suffer disruptive effects from their normal daily lives, for example they would have to share their personal bedroom with others, and the number of caris might exceed the number of parking spaces available in the garage and so on. Furthermore, for those evacuees that has no relatives in the country, for instance, foreigners who work in Brunei under contracts, have to evacuate from their place and find a new place to live.
Furthermore, the social problem can be added here is the social education of the land owner on their areas. As a Bruneian, the matter to this problem is that the lack of awareness about their environment. As stated in Brunei Times (29th January 2009), the authorities were not to be blamed for the incidents as this is a mere act of nature, but we should start preparing now as landslides will happen again. It means that the locals had a lack of awareness about their surrounding, but once the surrounding affected their life, the locals start to care about the surrounding. Not only the lack of awareness, lack of knowledge about the environment also can be a problem, as authorities need more explanations from the developers before handing out any license approval to build houses on the area.
Secondly, the next aspect of the problem is infrastructure. In the Appendix 2, as stated there was one instance which the road connecting the Belait and Tutong district specifically known as the Sungai Liang road was hit by landslides (Borneo Bulletin, 6th February 2009, p.1). As can be illustrated from the article (Appendix 2), the traffice congestion caused by the landslides was as long as 4km and taken as long as three to four hours to subside. In addition, power supplies to 10 homes in the vicinity had been cut off due to some damages to the cables.
On the other hand, infrastructure can also be the cause of the landslide. The foundations in which the houses are built play a major role in determining whether the vicinity is landslide-prone or otherwise. Houses built in the hilly areas are more prone to landslide to those houses built in gradual areas.
In addition, as stated in Brunei Times (29th January 2009), developers' construction practices have to be changed, as it is wise to be prudent in picking out the materials, and it is human nature to pick out cheaper materials to save costs, but the higher value usually means higher quality therefore more safer. From this statement, it can be determined that the materials that can be found in the infrastructure, are not good quality, as it is human nature to pick out cheaper materials to save costs. This can be related with social problems.
Thirdly, the next aspect of the problem is the economical problem. Victims would suffer a huge amount of loss as their house insurance does not cover natural phenomenon such as landslide, floods and others. Not only to renovate their houses, it also takes huge amount of money to build up a wall retention to prevent the landslide for precaution in the future.
Economic problem can also be said as a cause to landslide. In order to build up the retention wall would add up to the expenses of buying the house if the house was bought. The house owner would also need to consider the cost of renovation which is regarded as a compulsory rather than a precautionary measure such as building the retention wall.
Why such expenses are avoided? To build such retention is not important to the house owner because they have the mentality that the landslide will not happen to them. The mind set is common among Bruneians because of their lack of awareness to the calamity of the disaster happening to them. This, the mind set is to save cost rather than spending on something that rarely or would not be happening to them. This also can be related to social problem.
The government itself will support to help the victims, but the help in the form of food and shelter, not on financial support. This is also came in a problem to the victims, economically, the victims need a huge amount of money to settle down their problems, especially the house owner whose house is all destroyed by landslide and it costs a fortune to build or renovate them. For the foreign workers such as lecturers who also became victims of landslide, who do not have relatives in the country, are thought to be compensated with an all expenses paid stay in hotels. This is arguably considered to be more of a short-term solution rather than a problem.
These behaviors of cutting costs, made by the owners and the architects (the sectors that are involved in constructions), were considered first albeit safety second. Their beliefs and precautionary measures made by these constituents to prevent or reduce the occurrence of landslides were only taken seriously after the frequency of the disaster occurring in the region. Their confidence toward their approach, to financially cut costs, blinded their perceptions towards the ability of such disasters occurring to them. To conclude, a famous saying is applicable in this event: It is better to be safe rather than sorry.
The final aspect of the problems is the environmental. Landslide can bring problems to the environments such as water, land, ecosystems and others. How do landslides affect this environment?
For instance, water is an important element, once the water such as river is polluted by the landslide, in this case the soil added to the river, will lead to a disturbance of the aquatic life. In addition, the cost of having polluted water is high, and the expenditure to clear the polluted water takes a huge amount of money.
In addition, land also can be an environmental problem. In Appendix 2, it shows the trees are falling apart from the effect of landslide. Thus the remaining soil would have less tree roots to absorb the rain water resulting in further potential landslide. Furthermore, the decrease in the number of trees would lead to a decrease in the emission of oxygen and higher number of carbon dioxide which is absorbed by trees. This could lead to many environmental problems mainly the global warming.
, 2009 - http://www.ga.gov.au/hazards/landslide/causes.jsp Australia
- Brunei Times, 2009 - http://www.bt.com.bn/en/home_news/2009/01/29/geotextiles_are_answer_to_bruneis_landslide_problems