DEVELOPERS who carry out earthworks without approvals or permits from the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) could face the possibility of having their applications for future development projects frozen for five to 10 years.
Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow (DAP – Padang Kota) suggested that stringent action be taken against such errant developers.
“The state government or the city council will freeze all future development applications of such developers between five and 10 years, if they are found to be carrying out illegal earthworks.
“Such action needs to be taken against these ‘environmental violators or sinners’ to curb illegal hill clearing,” Chow said during his winding-up speech at the state assembly yesterday.
He said if such measures were imposed, developers would be more concerned and serious about getting valid approval for earthworks.
Chow added that MBPP was also seriously looking into the hill clearing issue at Bukit Relau.
“MBPP has met General Accomplishment Sdn Bhd (GASB), which is responsible for the mitigation works on the hill, 13 times since April 26 last year.
“The city council has issued order notices to the company for more mitigation works .
“GASB has carried out hydro-seeding and close-turfing works to minimise the soil erosion on the hill.
“The company has also been ordered by MBPP to supervise the close-turfing, trench and sediment pond at the hill, so that the soil erosion can be controlled,” he added.
Besides that, Chow said a stop- work order had been issued to the developer who had been carrying out illegal earthworks near the Teluk Bahang Dam on Jan 12.
Erosion worsens on Bukit Relau despite slope repairs
This was confirmed during a site inspection by the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) on Nov 2 after the scars on its slopes had appeared to worsen despite the landowner having been convicted by the courts.
The Penang government has however denied that the controversial clearing activity has continued, saying that new damage to the hill are due to landslips and erosion.
He explained that the apparent increase in the hill’s scarring is due to landslips that happened following mitigation works on the slopes.
“The earlier mitigation has not been effective,” he said. “The grass did not grow well. And the rainy season in September and October caused erosion and landslips.”
He added that MPPP engineers together with MPPP secretary Ang Aing Thye and representatives of landowner General Accomplishment Sdn Bhd (GASB) were present at the site visit on Nov 2 to inspect the conditions.
GASB has since been asked to engage a landscape consultant to improve the situation.
“The landowner must then submit an earthworks plan to the MPPP to approve the mitigation works,” he said.
Chow said this during a visit to the site of the Briksa community park in Farlim where the MPPP is expected to complete landscaping and building of recreational facilities by next month at a cost of RM649,930.
Deep gullies seen at site
Meanwhile, MPPP councillor Dr Lim Mah Hui expressed alarm at photographs of deep gullies taken by a group of hikers and nature lovers at the site last week.
“From the pictures they took, one can see that the erosion is bad,” he said. “It is so clear that they are not just landslips. There are gullies that are about six and seven feet deep.”
“I have raised this matter before in MPPP but nothing is being done. I am a lone voice in the wilderness,” he said. “The media should do its part to highlight this matter.”
Lim lamented that six months have passed since the general election and nothing significant has happened on the site even though Batu Uban assemblyman Dr T Jayabalan and Seri Delima assemblyman RSN Rayer have brought this matter up with the state.
About six acres cleared
When contacted, Tan Sri Tan Kok Ping, one of the four directors of GASB, said the mitigation work done following the stop-work order by MPPP was only to cover the exposed soil with white and blue plastics but that was not adequate.
“Due to the sun, rain and wind, the plastic covering came off and withered. We stopped covering the soil in September to submit the rectification plan,” he said
“I know the erosion is bad because the covers came off. But every time it rains, about six to seven workers are there daily to check on the condition and make sure the lower parts of the area are not badly affected,” he stressed.
He added that the cleared land spans about six acres but the remedial works would involve 30 per cent of the land.
“This will ensure erosion and soil run-off do not occur in future. We will listen to the consultant’s advice on whether to plant grass or trees and spend as much money as needed to repair the damage caused by the clearing,” he added.
The controversy over the clearing, which can be seen from many parts of Penang, blew up in April.
On July 11, GASB was sentenced to a fine of RM30,000, in default of three years jail, by the Penang Sessions Court.
The maximum sentence for the offence is jail term not exceeding five years or a fine of not more than RM50,000, or both.
The deputy public prosecutor has since filed an appeal so that a heavier sentence can be meted out.
by Himanshu Bhatt and Sangeetha Amarthalingam The Nation Malaysian Insider
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