STATE exco member Jagdeep Singh Deo should stop talking only of the 76m altitude restriction and also talk of 25-degree slope gradient restriction on hillside development.
According to The Star on Labour Day, state exco member Jagdeep Singh Deo wrote in his Facebook page: “I want everyone to get their facts right during this election campaign…”, and he went on to state that the Penang government did not approve projects on land more than 76m (250 ft) above sea level.
The Penang Structure Plan clearly states that sensitive hill land is defined not only as land over 76m above sea level but also slopes of more than 25 degrees; the development of such land is restricted to “special projects” only.
Any construction on slopes of more than 25 degree contravenes the second condition. Hillside development cannot be discussed only with reference to the altitude.
For slope stability, the higher the slope face and the steeper the angle, the higher the risk of slope failure.
While the previous Barisan Nasional government here approved many such hillside developments, the record of the present state government shows that more development on sensitive hillsides have been approved.
State exco member Chow Kon Yeow, in his reply to an enquiry in the State Assembly on November 2015, revealed that 56 high-rise towers have been approved on sensitive hill land between 2008 and end-2015.
In the case of the Tanjung Bungah landslide tragedy, DAP leaders claimed that the project was on flat land when it was evident that it was built on land that was once a slope and had been cut flat.
During the earthworks stage of that project, a 20m high, 60-degree angle slope was then formed at the boundary.
It was this slope that failed and buried 11 workers alive.
Under the Hillside Development Guidelines 2012, such a slope is classified as Class Three. Submission requirements include a geo-technical report by a geo-technical engineer and a geo-technical review report by an independent checker.
At present, another proposed project above the Miami Green Resort Condominium is on Class Four land (with slopes greater than 35 degrees) which is classified as “Environmentally Sensitive Areas with Disaster Risk”.
Under the draft Penang Structure Plan 2020, no form of development is allowed on such land.
A technical review of the site by Zeezy Global, a consulting firm, found that the proposed development is on a hill, on Lot 62, with height ranges from 40m to 140m above sea level.
Almost 50% of the slopes have a gradient of more than 25 degrees, and in some areas as steep as 40 to 50 degrees. Some parts of the area designated for construction are higher than 76m.
The project consists of two 34-storey towers of serviced apartments, each with 336 units, and a 20-storey “affordable housing” tower with 197 units.
Two retention ponds larger than an Olympic-sized pool with total capacity of 5.2 millon litres on the hill are planned to cater to expected high surface run-offs during and after construction.
The existence of such a huge mass of water poses potential risks to residents if the slopes de-stabilise during or after construction, particularly if monitoring, maintenance and enforcement are weak.
Existing gunite slopes in Miami Green are not designed for additional loading.
With the new project, exertion of loads at the upper slopes could endanger the residents.
The disturbance from the construction could affect the integrity of the existing slope. No assurance has been made regarding risks of landslides or slope failures during and after construction.
In light of the Tanjung Bungah tragedy, lessons must be learned. If the local and state authorities do not have the technical capacity to implement, monitor and enforce the present hillside guidelines, a moratorium on hillside development should be imposed until such time that this problem is resolved.
The public should not be put at risk anymore. Eleven lives were lost and hopefully not in vain.
Dr Lim says hillside development cannot be discussed only with reference to the altitude
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