Penang landslide tragedy, plea went unheeded, no one listened !


Suspicious activity: A photo taken from Penang
social activist Anil Netto’s blog showing an active stone quarry about
500m directly behind the site of the landslide.

GEORGE TOWN: As the landslide tragedy takes its toll with three workers killed and 11 others feared dead, DAP state assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu said there are still 10 other development projects pending, but his plea to save the hills has been constantly ignored.

Some of the projects will be near hillsides and more are planned along the coastline. A few are projected to be 50 to 60 storeys high, said the Tanjung Bungah assemblyman.

“I objected to each one. I always use the words Saya membantah sekeras-kerasnya (I strongly object) and some city councillors laughed at me and said the approval authority ‘menyokong sepenuh-penuhya’ (fully supports).

“Now see what has happened,” Teh told The Star.

He was referring to the one-stop centre at the Penang Island City Council (MBPP), which is in charge of approving property development plans on the island.

Teh, who rushed to the scene of the landslide shortly after it happened at about 8.30am yesterday, did not hide his discontent over the spurt of development projects in his constituency.

“Not all those development applications have been approved yet.

“But after the general election, I expect a mushrooming of approvals,” he added.

Tanjung Bungah is one of the few residential areas on the island with a low population density.

The Lembah Permai area, locally called Hillside or Vale of Tempe, is a coveted location for its semi-detached, terraced and bungalow homes.

But in recent years, developers have been submitting plans for high-rises that rival even the height of Komtar, in the area’s unoccupied hills and seaside.

Yesterday’s landslide happened at a construction site near Lorong Lembah Permai 3.

Tens of thousands of tonnes of laterite earth slipped down from a height of about 35m, burying the workers.

Firemen told reporters that the search operation had to be carried out slowly because the slope was unstable.

Teh said he objected to the project’s planning permission about two years ago because the original hill slope had a steepness of 30 to 40 degrees.

“I apologise to my voters in Tanjung Bungah. I objected to the construction, but my words were only taken as a personal view by the MBPP and state government.

“I also apologise to the family members of the victims buried by the landslide,” he said.

Asked about a stone quarry located some 500m further uphill from where the landslide occurred, Teh said that it was active, with rock blasting going on two to three times a week.

“I am against that too, but it was allowed to continue,” he added.

Source: The Star


Another call to stop all hill-slope development immediately


Why must it take a tragedy to happen in Penang before the Penang state and local governments wake up to the dangers of rampant and unsustainable development especially on hill slopes? Or will they wake up?

Two years ago, in December 2015, the Penang Forum, alarmed by such negative developments, organised a half-day event titled “Save Our Hills” in which engineering, planning and legal experts gave presentations on the dangers of hill-slope development. (The presentations are available on Penang Forum’s website.)

It then called on the government to review and stop further hill-slope projects. Very sadly, the call fell on deaf ears and the consequences are painfully evident today after an estimate of perhaps 15 lives are lost in a landslide at a hill-slope project in Tanjung Bungah.

Penang Forum then started Penang Hills Watch (PHW), a citizens’ initiative to provide the state government, information on hill cuttings that it collects from the public. In January 2017, the PHW met with the state government; the present site where this tragedy happened was the first case that PHW highlighted to the state government. (Please visit the PHW website.) Photos of construction and hill cutting on this site were presented to the state government – to which it responded that the “earthwork is being monitored.”

The chief minister of Penang, in the Safety Guidelines for Hillside Development, said: “Penang Local Governments (MPPP and MPSP) are to strengthen their Geotechnical unit, which processes and approves applications for hill site developments, followed by strict enforcement. A monitoring team will be established to ensure compliance in construction and monitoring performance of slopes.”

The question is what happened then? Did the state and local governments follow through their own guidelines? Or was there gross negligence?

Such senseless tragedy could have been avoided. Penang Forum calls for an independent Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate what went wrong and how such incidents can be avoided in the future. All parties beginning from the State Planning Committee that gave approval for all hill-slope projects, to the One-Stop-Committee of the Penang Island City Council that also approved the project, to the engineers who are supposed to monitor the projects, to the developers and contractors who carried out the project should be investigated and held responsible.

In the meantime, Penang Forum once again calls on the authorities to:

    • stop all hill-slope projects with immediate effect;
    • immediately amend the 2009 guidelines on ‘special projects’ to explicitly prohibit all development on hill lands, except if it is for essential public services;
    • rehabilitate all existing exposed and barren slopes and spaces to prevent further soil erosion;
    • undertake stern enforcement, effective and deterrent punishment on those who clear land illegally or do not abide by conditions imposed to prevent soil-erosion;
    • monitor frequently and effectively all hill slopes by the local authorities;
  • publicly declare and give warning on all hill slopes and areas that are not safe.



Sources: Penang Forum 

Sahabat Alam Malaysia

Consumers Association of Penang 

Residents associations and management committees of Penang

Consumers & Residents tell state govt, ‘We told you so’

 

GEORGE TOWN: The Tanjung Bungah Residents’ Association (TBRA) is demanding for a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on all hill slope developments in Penang, following a landslide at a construction site this morning that buried nearly 18 people.

TBRA chair Meenakshi Raman said the RCI would be a form of audit on all risky hill slope projects in the state, to prevent any tragedies from happening again.

She also said the TBRA had repeatedly appealed to the Penang government to put an end to hill slope developments as it would have a domino effect on flash floods in the state.

“We were called ‘irrational’ by the Penang government when we appealed for hill slope developments to stop. Who’s irrational now?

“Today’s incident is a grave and grim warning to the authorities to take heed of Mother Nature’s warning,” Meenakshi said when contacted today.

In the 8.50am incident, a 10m-high hill slope came crashing down next to a construction site not far from the Tunku Abdul Rahman College in Tanjung Bungah.

At the time of writing, two survivors were rescued, while two more bodies were retrieved from the mud and rubble. Although their identities are not yet known, they are believed to be foreign workers.

Meenakshi said during last month’s flash floods, TBRA and other residents’ associations made a collective appeal to the state government to end all excess developments and hill clearing in the state.

TBRA, concerned groups, and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) had also previously called on the Penang government to amend existing guidelines concerning hill slopes.

Meanwhile, SAM president S M Mohamed Idris said the NGO had written to the Penang government “several times” urging them to stop hillside developments.

“We have warned that hill slopes are fragile ecosystems and cannot be touched.

“And now, we are really shocked that the lives of many have been sacrificed. We support TBRA’s call for an urgent RCI,” he said when contacted.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

Related

Sixth body pulled out from Penang landslide heap

 

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Call for action on flooding solution


Some representatives of the 24 residents associations and management corporations showing messages urging the state to resolve the flood issues in Penang. — Photos: ASRI ABDUL GHANI /The Star
Meenakshi (right) speaking on the group’s concerns at the press conference.

Irked residents to hold meeting with state representatives on Oct 29

FRUSTRATED by the never-ending flood problems in Penang, a group has got together to arrange a meeting with state representatives on Oct 29.

The group of 24 residents associations and management corporations believes that the blame game between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan politicians should be stopped as the floods have caused a lot of hardship to the people.

Spokesperson Meenakshi Raman said the group would have experts share data collected on floods in their respective areas at the briefing.

“We want to make a collective call to the state government to take the flood and hill erosion issues very seriously,” she said at a press conference at the Consumers Association of Penang in Jalan Masjid Negeri yesterday.

Meenakshi said the state representatives could use the data gathered at the briefing titled ‘Penang Flood: Call for Action’ and discuss the matter during the upcoming state assembly in November.

The briefing is open to the public and the venue and time will be announced later.

“Flood mitigation alone is inadequate. We want comprehensive action and a stop to unsafe overdevelopment at hill slopes,” said Meenakshi.

Representatives of residents groups from Bandar Baru Ayer Itam attended the press conference to voice their dissatisfaction over the repeated flooding in the township, especially in Lebuhraya Thean Tek, Jalan Thean Tek and Lintang Thean Tek.

The groups are from Tanjung Court Condominium, Desa Delima (Tower Blocks), Sri Impian, Fortune Court, Treasure Ville and Desa Baiduri.

Tanjung Court Condominium residents ad-hoc group representative K. Suthakar said Lebuhraya Thean Tek in Bandar Baru Ayer Itam would be badly hit by floods every time there was heavy rain.

“The state government keeps saying that the Federal Government doesn’t give them enough money.

“Will the flooding problems go on for five or 10 more years? How long is this going to continue? We are suffering,” he said.

He urged MPs to attend the briefing as well so that they could bring up the flood issue in Parliament.

Later, the group showed photos of landslides that happened during the Sept 15 flooding at Fettes Park, Solok Tembaga and Sungai Ara.

They urged Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng to focus on resolving the flood issues.

Penang Opposition leader Datuk Jahara Hamid said it was a good initiative to hold the briefing as there was a need to better understand the concerns of the people.

“I can only confirm attendance after the venue and time have been fixed,” she said.

Meanwhile, PKR Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin said she would attend the briefing.

Source: by Intan Amalina Mohd Ali The Star

Related links:

Collective call to Penang government to solve … – New Straits Times

“This event and subsequent floods after that are indeed a wake-up call for serious and urgent action. This is not a one-off event and is expected …
Missing: solution

Penang comes to a standstill as floods reach … – New Straits Times

Penangites demand for long-term solution to … – New Straits Times

 

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Behind BJ Cove houses at Lintang Bukit Jambul 1 is an IJM Trehaus Project.  Approximate Coordinates : 5°20’38.47″N,100°16’…

 

Graft destroys nature as Corrupt officers see no evil as environment is being ravaged


Humans Are Destroying the Environment

PETALING JAYA: They are supposed to be guardians of the environment, and yet “certain enforcement officers” are found to be tolerating illegal activities that are detrimental to nature – all for personal gain.

Pollution and unauthorised felling of trees, for instance, could be traced to those working in cahoots with the culprits, according to sources.

Several recent cases such as the illegal bauxite mining in Kuantan, flash floods in Cameron Highlands and the illegal sawdust factory in Kampung Sungai Lembu, Penanti, Butterworth, were all linked to abuse of power and corruption.

“Some of them are more inclined to soliciting and receiving monetary gains in lieu of their responsibilities in protecting the natural surroundings.

“As a result, it has created greater problems to the fragile environment at the expense of future generations,” said a source.

The source added that stern action needed to be meted out against these irresponsible officers in order to put a stop to the wanton destruction.

If nothing was done, it could lead to adverse effects to the people in terms of public health and safety, the source said.

“All enforcement agencies tasked to preserve the environment must be serious in discharging their duties diligently.

“In this regard, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has done its part to send out a stern warning with numerous arrests and prosecutions in court,” the source said.

Over the past few months, scores of enforcement officers including those from the Customs, Land Office and local councils were nabbed on suspicion of receiving bribes to turn a blind eye on illegal activities detrimental to the environment.

The MACC also held several dialogues with NGOs and environmental groups through an Environmental Protection and Anti-Corruption Caucus to share information on corruption issues.

With this strategic collaboration, illegal activities such as illegal logging, river pollution and clearing of land could be prevented from recurring.

By Simon Khoo The Star/Asian News Network

Authorities fighting an uphill battle against ‘rape of hills’

PETALING JAYA: The authorities are waging an endless war against illegal loggers, with some enforcement officers even labelling the wanton destruction of trees as “raping the hills”.

Cases of such destructive activities in recent years include uncontrolled logging and illegal farming in Cameron Highlands, which polluted several rivers.

In April this year, a former Terengganu Forestry Department director was charged with accepting RM60,000 from a timber contractor four years ago as an inducement to approve a logging application for Hulu Terengganu Forest Reserve.

Two men were detained in the Bukit Bauk Forest Reserve in Dungun in November last year for removing evidence of illegal logging during an ambush by the Forestry Department. Some 400 tonnes of logs were reportedly seized.

In August last year, a Datuk Seri and two others were arrested in connection with illegal logging in the Cerul forest reserve in Terengganu. They produced a letter from a “high-ranking officer” to evade arrest but failed.

In Pahang, 11 people were detained by the Forestry Department for trespassing into forest reserves with the intent to steal high-value timber.

The Auditor-General’s Report 2015 highlighted illegal logging and encroachment in Perak forest reserves and said it was due to the lack of monitoring and effective enforcement by the Perak Forestry Department.

Logging in Kelantan has also come under scrutiny following allegations of illegal and uncontrolled logging being a possible cause of the 2014 floods in Kuala Krai.

In 2013, Kelantan-based NGO Young People against Corruption (Ombak) discovered rampant land clearing and wanton destruction of virgin forests in Kuala Krai and Gua Musang, affecting at least five hills stretching from the Pahang-Kelantan and Kelantan-Perak borders.

Ombak president Wan Khairul Ihsan Wan Muhammad described the destruction as the “rape of the forested hills”, adding that the activities were stealthily done in the middle of forest reserves to avoid detection.

Anti-graft officers out to stop illegal timber business

PETALING JAYA: Illegal logging, which has cost the country billions of ringgit in losses in taxes and revenue, is the latest target of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

Remote area: A file picture of a suspected illegal logging site in Bakun, Sarawak, that was raided by the MACC.

Anti-graft officers will be focusing on this issue after tackling illegal land clearing, bauxite mining and unlicensed factories.

It is learnt that incidents of illegal logging are “quite rampant and extensive”, causing a lot of destruction to the nation’s fragile eco-system and environment.

Some of the illegal activities are believed to be taking place deep in the jungle, including forest reserves and catchment areas, hidden from public view.

The problem is made worse when some enforcement officers tasked with taking action against illegal loggers are believed to have turned a blind eye and worked in cahoots with illegal loggers.

In return, the officers are said to be promised a certain percentage from profits from the illegal activities every month, paying no heed to the destruction of the country’s forests.

It is learnt that these unethical officers are raking in tens of thousand of ringgit every month as kickback and side income to finance their lavish lifestyle.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki said such illegal activities must be nipped in the bud before they cause irreparable damage.

“We have received very reliable information from the public on illegal logging.

“It is not just in one particular area, but in several states throughout the country, including Sabah and Sarawak.

“We have set up a few flying squads and they are now collecting evidence on the ground,” he said when contacted yesterday.

He said illegal logging has caused serious pollution, while natural disasters, such as flash floods and landslides could occur more rapidly, endangering the lives of the people.

Azam said the main focus of investigations will be on elements of corruption and abuse of power involving several enforcement agencies, their officers and logging companies.

“Once we have gathered all the necessary evidence, a sting operation will be launched to nab the culprits,” he added.

He said MACC would be moving into several states “very soon”, adding that “we are pretty serious in tackling this issue”.

He welcomed tip-offs from the people to assist in putting a stop to illegal logging and other activities detrimental to the environment.

“We will also work closely with NGOs and environmental groups to collect information,” he added.

In November 2014, the then Sarawak chief minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem declared war on illegal logging, saying Sarawakians must not tolerate corruption anymore because millions in revenue had been lost.

The state, he said, had gained a bad reputation internationally because of “this robbery which is carried out in broad daylight”.

The MACC swung into action with a massive crackdown dubbed Ops Gergaji the following year, and together with several agencies, some 400 bank accounts belonging to companies and individuals with about RM600mil were frozen.

About RM1mil worth of illegally felled logs were also seized.

By Simon Khoo The Star/ANN
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Behind BJ Cove houses at Lintang Bukit Jambul 1 is an IJM Trehaus Project.  Approximate Coordinates : 5°20’38.47″N,100°16’…

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IJM hill clearing & Trehaus construction damaged nearby houses since 2014 must be mitigated quickly!


Behind BJ Cove houses at Lintang Bukit Jambul 1 is an IJM Trehaus Project.
Approximate Coordinates : 5°20’38.47″N,100°16’52.82″E
Reported  in August 2016. Photos taken in November 2016 and 2014 by Penang Forum
PHW Report
Clearing and construction for a condo and semi-detached housing
project, Trehaus, reported in http://anilnetto.com/ 26 Aug 2016. Photo
taken in 2014 …
Click for map:

https://hillclearinginpenang.ushahidi.io/views/map

Sources: Penang Hills Watch (PHW) | Penang Forum

Behind BJ Cove houses at Lintang Bukit Jambul 1 is an IJM Trehaus Project.

Two invalid pipe culverts formed sinkholes at BJ Cove houses

The following plan clearly shows an underground pipe culvert from the IJM Trehaus site that converged  directly, vertically at BJ Cove houses from another underground  pipe culvert at nearby pond were burst, caused house cracks, floods, formed sinkholes (by two pipe culverts converged in red) and damaged  to  BJ Cove houses in 2015 due to blockages of waters whenever rains and because of lack of drainage systems.  The sinkhole was caused by soil erosion due to waters under the ground.
Therefore, damages to houses were caused by severe soil erosion due to water movement under the road and buildings.

Underground Pipe Culverts from IJM Trehaus site on the left and nearby pond on the right

The following is an underground pipe culvert from the IJM Trehaus site behind BJ Cove houses at Lintang Bukit Jambul 1:

IJM constructing an underground pipe Culvert in 2014 to BJ Cove Houses
IJM constructing an underground pipe Culvert in to BJ Cove Houses
IJM Underground Pipe Culvert to BJ Cove Houses

IJM Underground Pipe Culvert to BJ Cove Houses
Waters gushing down from IJM Trehaus site to BJ Cove houses:
Waters flow from IJM Trehaus to BJ Cove houses

 

Waters gushing down from IJM Trehaus site to BJ Cove houses

Waters from IJM site stucked at behind BJ Cove houses

The nearby pond besides IJM Trehaus site:

Serious Drainage Issues

The Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID or JPS) has just started
constructing the drain from the pond to divert the waters:
A drain under construction by JPS to divert waters from the nearby pond but show no sign to divert waters from IJM Site
Drain water flow under construction by JPS to divert waters from the nearby pond
We are concerned as to how IJM is going to resolve the pipe culvert from their side as JPS has confirmed IJM failure to comply with sediment control plan (ESCP).
Letters fromThe Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID or JPS)

Clearly, the underground pipe culverts leaked and waters seeped through the cracks as it did not happen immediately but over a period of time!

 
Despite the underground pipe culverts declared invalid by JPS and the Penang City  Council’s (Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang, i.e. MBPP) has issued stop work orders directing the developers, Worldwide Venture Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of IJM Land to rectify the damages within 1 and 2 weeks time since 2015 (as per the attached  letters below), multiple wall cracks, slabs collapsed, PBA water pipes burst, leakage charges, damaging ceiling, electrical DB board, and tiles fallen, broken/popped up,  are still pending settlement and remedial works to be carried out by parties responsible for the damages since 2014 !!

Letters from Penang City Council’s (Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang)

 

Letters from Developers: Worldwide Venture Sdn Bhd, an subsidiary of IJM Land:
 

 

Damaged houses

 Damages appeared after IJM began construction works in 2014, like hill clearing, rock-blasting, piling and digging culvert at Trehaus site. As a result, waters seepage through multiple cracks on the ground, walls, tiles fallen from roofs and popped up from the ground due to vibration from rock-blasting and piling for the building.

Pictures showing floods, sinkholes at Lintang Bukit Jambul 1, 11900 Penang,  damaged to BJ Cove houses, cracks, waters leakages seeped through the cracks, slabs collapsed, ceilings & tiles broken & fallen, electrical DB board explosion, etc caused by severe soil erosion due to water movement under the road and buildings. The underground pipe leaked and waters seeped through the cracks!

 

Sinkhole at BJ Cove house no. 20

IJM converted the sinkhole into a manhole waters from their underground pipe culvert at Trehaus

Sinkhole at house 20 is covered up by IJM’s underground pipe culvert from  IJM Trehaus

IJM converting the sinkhole at BJ Cove no. 20

 

 

 

We demand immediate enforcement & Actions:

 

1. The parties responsible must quickly without further delays, to settle the claims and start the remedial works to the damaged houses, as both JPS has declared underground pipe culverts invalid and  MBPP has  issued stop work orders directed the developers, Worldwide Venture Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of IJM Land to rectify the damages within 1 and 2 weeks time since 2015!

 

2. Divert waters from the two invalid underground pipe culverts, which it deems as illegal from IJM Trehaus site and the nearby ponds must be close and grout as a long term solution to the problems.

 

3. Beef up the enforcement and accountability not just in government agencies but also in professional bodies, like the Board Of Engineers Malaysia (BEM),  the Institute of Engineers Malaysia (IEM), etc to  uphold the professional ethics, integrity and standards, to ensure public safety of buildings and people life.

 

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https://youtu.be/n2vO-nsZxkY

Damaged houses to be repaired – Metro News

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Residents prefer affected houses to be torn down manually

Bruised in sinkhole fall at home – Nation

Penang CM must stop blaming past govt for problems

Cracks in homes force seven Penang families to flee – Nation

Here’s the proof — federal govt gave only RM443mil for flood mitigation

Former councillors claim Penang government abuse caused floods

PAS claims graft caused floods in Penang | Malaysia

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Rapid development in Penang root cause of massive flash floods …

Admit failure in solving floods and stop giving excuses, Penang govt told

Deluge brings chaos to northern states – Metro New

Penang floods: Body of missing woman found in Bukit Jambul river

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Sep 16, 2017 – … Noor Afidah Yahunas, 30, who fell from her motorcycle into a culvert in … by rescuers in a river near Bukit Jambul about 7.45am today, nearly 24 … to lose balance and fall off, before she was swept away by strong currents.

Boast to end floods rings hollow – Nation

Anti-flood plan in pipeline – Metro News 

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Getting titles right in the engineering field in Malaysia ..

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Wall and awning collapsed in house near construction site
Penang Island City Council, MBPP councilor Dr Lim fed up change not happening in Penang

Penang Forum concerns over hill clearing and floods; the Declaration & Recommendation 

 Penang flood aftermath: design pump system needed to drain out water, fix funding snag …

  Long and winding road: This satellite picture from Google Earth Pro shows five planned interchanges of the Teluk Bahang-Tanjung Bun…

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Rage against hill road plan: We don’t want that road, says Penang residents


Long and winding road: This satellite picture from Google Earth Pro shows five planned interchanges of the Teluk Bahang-Tanjung Bungah paired road. The road starts at (1) Lembah Permai corner near Sri Vazhikattum Muniswarar shrine. The three interchanges in the middle are (2) at Jalan Sungai Emas, (3) at Persiaran Sungai Permai and (4) near Chin Farm Waterfall. The road ends (5) about 200m from the Teluk Bahang roundabout near the Toy Museum.

 

GEORGE TOWN: Alarm bells rang among Tanjung Bungah residents after they realised the proposed new road from Teluk Bahang to their neighbourhood entails de- forestation and construction on slopes with gradients steeper than 25 degrees.

They want the project scrapped and demand that the state government think of alternatives.

Through the Tanjung Bungah Residents Association (TBRA), 400 of them signed a petition against the project known as North Coastal Paired Road (NCPR).

TBRA chairman Meenakshi Raman said the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report showed that 3.34ha of gazetted forest reserves would be cleared for the road.

“Tracts of the Teluk Bahang Forest Reserve and Bukit Kerajaan Forest Reserve will be deforested. How can this be allowed?

“These reserves are gazetted as water catchment areas too,” she said in a press conference at the Tanjung Bungah market yesterday.

She said the EIA report revealed that 46% of the proposed road would be on slopes with gradients higher than 25 degrees.

“The EIA is clear that slope instability risks will be high. Mitigation measures are suggested but haven’t we learned enough about Penang’s development? Landslides occur often here,” she said.

The residents urged the Depart-ment of Environment (DoE) in writing not to approve the EIA. A copy of the letter was forwarded to Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng on Aug 21.

The NCPR is a 10.53km four-lane road from near SK Teluk Bahang until the L-shaped bend of Lembah Permai at Sri Vazhikattum Munis-warar shrine.

This is part of the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) and is under the purview of Consortium Zenith Construction.

It is one of three new roads planned as the traffic dispersal system of the Penang Undersea Tunnel project.

Residents are also confounded by the cost.

Meenakshi said that in 2011, the estimated construction and land acquisition cost of the NCPR was expected at RM1bil.

She said the EIA stated that at an average speed of 70kph, motorists would save 14 minutes of travel time compared with the current coastal road.

“Spending such a huge amount to save 14 minutes is a colossal waste of public resources,” she added.

She felt that the EIA should have included a cost-to-benefit analysis.

“For RM1bil, can’t we think of other alternatives to the traffic problem?”

In response, state exco member Lim Hock Seng clarified that the clearing of the forest reserves was studied in the EIA as a requirement but the state was planning to avoid forest clearing.

“The first phase of NCPR is from Batu Ferringhi to Tanjung Bungah. That is the most urgent.

“The Teluk Bahang stretch, where the forest reserves are, won’t be built so soon.

“We do plan to continue examining alternatives to avoid deforestation.”

Lim said the main road in Batu Ferringhi could not “take it anymore during the holiday season” and the NCPR was vital to relieve traffic jams in the area.

Also, he said SRS Consortium, the state’s PTMP project delivery partner, was planning a viaduct from Lembah Permai to Seri Tanjung Pinang.

“So we are not dumping traffic or leaving a bottleneck at the Vale of Tempe Road with the NCPR.

“Motorists can choose between the winding coastal road or the NCPR depending on where they are going.

“This project will help reduce traffic,” he said.

Meenakshi also expressed shock that the EIA stated that NCPR would have 10 proposed interchanges.

But Lim and also Consortium Zenith chairman Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli said there would be only three interchanges in the middle of the road.

“They will be between Teluk Bahang and Tanjung Bungah, in Jalan Sungai Emas, Persiaran Sungai Permai and near Chin Farm Waterfall,” said Zarul Ahmad.

Penang Water Supply Corporation chief executive officer Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa gave an assurance that the NCPR’s route would not affect water catchment because the road would be downhill of Teluk Bahang Dam or any other reservoir.

Source: The Star by Arnold Loh

Call to scrap proposed road



Troubled spot: Aerial view of Jalan Lembah Permai in Tanjung Bungah, where the North Coastal Paired Road from Teluk Bahang will end in the L-shaped bend of the road. 

GEORGE TOWN: Tanjung Bungah residents want the proposed new road from Teluk Bahang to their neighbourhood scrapped after realising it entails deforestation and construction on slopes with gradients steeper than 25 degree.

Through the Tanjung Bungah Residents Association (TBRA), 400 of them signed a petition against the North Coastal Paired Road (NCPR).

TBRA chairman Meenakshi Raman said the environmental impact assessment (EIA) showed that 3.34ha of gazetted forest reserve will be cleared for the road.

“Tracts of the Teluk Bahang Forest Reserve and Bukit Kerajaan Forest Reserve will be deforested. How can this be allowed?” Meenakshi said during a press conference at the Tanjung Bungah market yesterday.

She said the EIA revealed that 46% of the proposed road would be on slopes with gradients higher than 25 degrees.

“The EIA is clear that slope instability risks will be high. Mitigation measures are suggested, but haven’t we learnt enough about Penang’s development? The island is sensitive to landslides,” she said.

The residents urged the Department of Environment (DoE) in writing not to approve the EIA. A copy of the letter was also forwarded to Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng on Aug 21.

The NCPR is a 10.53km four-lane road that is part of the Penang Transport Master Plan and is under the purview of Consortium Zenith Construction. It is part of the traffic dispersal system of the Penang Undersea Tunnel project.

The residents are also confounded by the cost. Meenakshi said in 2011, the estimated construction cost and land acquisition cost of the NCPR was RM1bil.

She felt the EIA should have included a cost-to-benefit analysis and “for RM1bil, can’t we think of other alternatives to the traffic problem?”

In response, state exco member Lim Hock Seng clarified that the clearing of the forest reserves was studied in the EIA as a requirement, but the state is planning to avoid it.

“The first phase of NCPR is from Batu Ferringhi to Tanjung Bungah. The Teluk Bahang stretch, where the forest reserves are, won’t happen so soon.

“Although it is studied in the EIA, we do plan to continue examining alternatives and avoid deforestation,” said Lim. – The Star

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Too good to be true? Think twice


 

HAVE you ever grabbed an offer without any hesitation, simply because the price is too cheap to resist?

Many of us have this experience especially during sales or promotional campaigns. We tend to spend more at the end or buy things which we are uncertain of their quality when the deal seems too good to say no.

It may be harmless if the amount involved is insignificant. However, when we apply the same approach to big ticket items, it can cause vast implications.

Recently, I heard a case which reinforces this belief.

A friend shared that a property project which was selling for RM300,000 a few years ago is now stuck. Although the whole project was sold out, the developer has problem delivering the units on time.

The developer is calling all purchasers to renegotiate the liquidated and ascertained damages (LAD), a compensation for late delivery.

One of the homeowners said he is owed RM50,000 of LAD, which means the project is 1½ years late. When we chatted, we found that he purchased the unit solely due to its cheap pricing without doing much research in the first place.

The incident is a real-life example of paying too low for an item which can leave us as losers, especially when it involves huge sum of investment, such as property.

To many, buying a house maybe a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a decision made can make or break the happiness of a family.

A good decision ensures a roof over the head and a great living environment, while an imprudent move may incur long-term financial woes if the house is left uncompleted.

Nowadays, it is common to see people do research when they plan to buy a phone, household item, or other smaller ticket items.

Looking at the amount involved and implication of buying a house, we should apply the same discretion if not more.

It is always important for house buyers to study the background of a developer and project, consult experienced homeowners regarding the good and bad of a project before committing.

I have seen many people buy a house merely based on price consideration.

In fact, there are more to be deliberated when we commit for a roof over our heads. The location, project type, reputation of a developer, the workmanship, the future maintenance of the property etc, are all important factors for a good decision as they would affect the future value of a project.

Beware when a discount or a rebate sounds too good to be true, it may be just too good to be true and never materialised. If the collection or revenue of a housing project is not sufficient to fund the building cost, the developer may not be able to complete the project or deliver the house as per promised terms. At the end of the day, the “price” paid by homeowners would be far more expensive.

In general, the same principle applies elsewhere. It is a known fact that when we pay a premium for a quality product from a reliable producer, we have a peace of mind that the product could last longer and end up saving us money. Some lucky ones will end up gaining much more.

For instance, when we purchase a car, we should consider its resale value as some cars hold up well, while others collapse after a short period. Other determining factors include the specifications of the car, the after sales service, and the availability of spare parts.

Quality products always come with a higher price tag due to the research, effort, materials and services involved.

In addition to buying a house or big ticket items, other incidents that can tantamount to losing huge sums are like money games, get-rich-quick scheme, or the purchase of stolen cars or houses with caveats.

When an offer or a rebate sounds dodgy, the “good deal” can be a scam.

Years of experience tells me that when what is too good to be true, we should think twice. I always remind myself with a quote from John Ruskin (1819-1900) who was an art critic, an artist, an architect and a philosopher. “It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that’s all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do.

“The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”

Food for thought by Alan Tong

Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He was the world president of FIABCI International for 2005/2006 and awarded the Property Man of the Year 2010 at FIABCI Malaysia Property Award. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.

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The rail economics of East Coast Rail Link (ECRL)


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Rail link seen as game changer but cost is a concern.

TOK Bali, a fishing village in Kelantan with its beautiful sandy beaches and pristine blue waters has long been a hidden gem among well-travelled backpackers. But that may soon change. The idyllic town is one that is touted to potentially become a tourist hotspot, as it sits along the alignment of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), a multi-billion infrastructure project that promises many economic spin-offs.

After almost a decade in planning, ECRL was launched with great pomp this week.

Touted as a key game-changer for the east coast states of Peninsular Malaysia, the interstate ECRL is expected to help the economy of the four states that it covers by an additional 1.5% per year over the next 50 years.

On a micro level, more employment opportunities, particularly skilled jobs, will be made available to Malaysians. Domestic industry players especially in the construction sector, can now anticipate construction contracts to the tune of RM16bil, at least.

   
Another milstone:Najib checking out a train model at the ground-breaking ceremony this week.He called ECRL ‘another milestore in the country’s land public transport history”.

The ECRL is expected to benefit freight transport because it would link key economic and industrial areas within the East Coast Economic Region such as the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park, Gambang Halal Park, Kertih Biopolymer Park and Tok Bali Integrated Fisheries Park to both Kuantan Port and Port Klang.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak called it “another milestone in the country’s land public transport history”.

Despite the much highlighted economic benefits from the rail network, the venture is attracting its own share of controversies from the way the contract was awarded to the price of contract.

For one, China’s state-owned China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) has been appointed for the construction of ECRL via a direct negotiation method.

Detractors have labelled ECRL – at a cost of RM80mil per kilometre – as the world’s costliest rail project. Note that, the Gemas-Johor Baru double-tracking stretch costs RM45mil per km.

ECRL, however, will go over hilly terrain and has several tunnels to be built.

There are questions on whether the 688km rail venture, at RM55bil, will be financially feasible.

Sources say the price tag is unlikely to have included land acquisition costs.

They indicate that close to half of the land plots required for the rail link sit on private land and would require land acquisition. At this point, the total land acquisition cost is unknown.

No money in rail

The concerns of the critics are understandable, given the fact that public infrastructure projects, namely rail projects are usually not commercially viable.

A quick check on the finances of Malaysia’s very own Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTMB) and a number of major rail operators abroad, affirms the fact that rail projects do not promise easy money.

The loss-making KTMB which was corporatised in 1992, has not been able to financially sustain itself, resulting in the deterioration of its level of service despite attempts to turn around the company.

According to the railway service operator’s latest publicly available audited report for financial year 2013, the group registered a total net loss of RM128.2mil. However, note that, the net loss had narrowed by 46% from RM238.5mil in the previous year.

Had it not been for the government’s subsidy which kept it afloat, KTMB would find it difficult to continue its operations without a further raise of its fare.

In India, where railway is a favoured mode of transportation, the Indian Railways has been incurring losses on passenger operations every year. Earlier this year, the lower chamber of the Indian parliament was told that the state-owned rail operator recorded a loss of Rs359.18bil (RM24.04bil) in the period of 2015 to 2016.

This was slightly higher than its loss of Rs334.91bil (RM22.42bil) in the period of 2014-2015.

On the other hand, China’s state-owned rail operator, China Railway Corp, was reported to have recorded a 58% increase in earnings last year despite huge losses in the first nine months. However, a zoom into its finances reveals that the high profit made was only possible due to a significant annual government subsidy.

Similarly, Singapore’s SMRT Corp which manages the city-state’s rail operations posted a profit of S$7.4mil (RM23.33mil) in its financial year of 2016. This was on the back of a revenue of S$681mil (RM2.15bil), which rose by 4.1% year-on-year.

While the rail operations saw higher ridership in that year, SMRT Corp would have registered a loss of S$9.6mil (RM30.26mil) for its rail business, if not for the net property tax refund of S$17.1mil (RM53.9mil).

Considering the lack of commercial viability in such rail projects, ECRL would ultimately require assistance from the government in ensuring smooth operations, while maintaining an affordable service for its users. This is akin a crucial trade-off, to complement the government’s move to provide an integrated transportation system in Malaysia, which is long overdue.

AmBank Group’s chief economist Anthony Dass tells StarBizWeek that for every ringgit spent on capital projects such as transportation, it generates a return or multiplier effect of around 5% to 20%.

In his estimation, he says the ECRL should create around RM50-55bil in terms of gross domestic product.

“The impact of this project to the economy will be multilevel. Impact on the respective states’ GDP and national GDP will be evident, though the magnitude of the impact on the respective states is poised to vary.

“On a longer term, once the entire project is completed, we expect strong benefits seeping into services related activities. Properties in the major towns is likely to enjoy more especially the port-connected towns, driven by logistics- and trade-related businesses.

“Other areas would benefit from the movement of tourism. As for the smaller towns, they are more likely to enjoy from the spillovers of this connectivity through movement of people commuting to work and new areas of business growth especially in areas like the small and medium businesses,” says Anthony.

High cargo projections

By the year 2040, an estimated 8 million passengers and 53 million tonnes of cargo are expected to use the ECRL service annually as the primary transport between the east coast and west coast.

By 2040, ECRL is projected to support a freight density of 19 million tonnes.

The freight cargo projections of the rail network stands in stark contrast to the total cargo volume running through the entire Malaysian railways today.

As of 2015, the entire Malaysian railways operations handled a sum of 6.21 million tons of cargo, according to a study related to the ECRL.

To note, the revenue from the operation of the venture is projected to be obtained through a transportation ratio of 30% passengers and 70% freight.

If the projections of ECRL are anything to go by, the planners are anticipating a ballistic growth in volume of cargo being moved along the tracks.

Is this realistic?

Socio Economic Research Centre executive director Lee Heng Guie remains concerned on the details of the project financing, albeit the expected trickle-down benefits of ECRL.

“While ECRL has been identified as a high impact public transport project that will connect east coast states with the west coast, especially Greater KL and Klang Valley, the high cost of RM55bil requires further justification. More clarity on the cost structure and terms and conditions of the loan is needed to ease public genuine concerns.

“It must be noted that the high costs, low profits and long gestation periods of transportation projects do not always make them financially viable. The financial viability of the ECRL would depend on the revenue generated to cover operating cash flow, including interest expenses.

“As the loan will have a seven year moratorium, the bunching of loan repayment together with interest payment will be substantial in the remaining 13 years,” he says.

Lowering cost the key

In terms of funding, 85% of the total project value of RM55bil would be to be funded by Exim Bank of China’s through a soft loan at a 3.25% interest.

The balance 15% would be financed through a sukuk programme by local banks.

There is no payment for the first seven years, and the government starts paying after the seventh year over a 13-year period.

At 3.25% interest per annum, the interest servicing bill for the project is huge.

“Hence the main challenge to this project will be to bring down cost as low as possible. The lower the cost, the lesser it would be the burden on the government’s balance sheet,” says an industry player.

Echoing a similar view, Lee noted the ERCL project loan is expected to be treated as “contingent liability” as it will be taken by Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd, a special purpose vehicle owned by the Ministry of Finance.

This is also to ensure that the Federal Government will not breach the self-imposed debt to GDP ratio of 55%.

As at end-March 2017, the Federal Government’s debt stood at RM664.5bil or 50.2% of GDP.

At the end of the day, despite the concerns on the possible cost overrun in the ECRL project, proper management and efficiency in project delivery could lead to cost savings and ultimately lower overall expenditure for ECRL.

History has shown that Malaysian companies can lower the cost, especially on rail projects compared to foreign players.

In the late 1990s, a consortium of India and China state-owned companies were awarded the contract to build a double track electrified railway system from Padang Besar to Johor Baru. The cost was estimated at RM44bil and paid through crude palm oil.

However, an MMC Corp Bhd-Gamuda Bhd joint venture managed to win the job in 2003 with a RM14.3bil proposal. However this project was shelved and subsequently continued after a lull of few years.

ECRL is a seven year project to be built in stages. Many factors can come into play in that period like delay in construction and rise in material costs.

However in the bigger picture, the infrastructure venture should not merely be seen from a commercial-viable lens alone. The trickle-down benefits on the economy and the Malaysian population should also be factored into the calculations.

The lower the cost, the higher the multiplier effect.

Source: The Star by ganeshwaran kanaandgurmeet kaur

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