Penang landslides & flooding are natural disasters man-made?


It’s hard to deny when the effects of climate change are all around us

 

Andrew Sheng says that from increasingly intense hurricanes to regional landslides and flooding, it’s clear our actions are effecting the
environment. But, it’s also evident that there are ways for us to avert
disaster and change course

 

AFTER two Category 5 hurricanes (Harvey and Irma) hit the US in October, followed by Maria hitting Puerto Rico, no one can deny that natural disasters are devastating.

With three hurricanes costing an estimated US$385bil, with less than half insured, the poor are suffering the most because they cannot afford to rebuild as the rich.

This year alone, monsoon floods in Bangladesh, India and Nepal have left millions homeless. This year will therefore break all records as Munich Re-insurance data suggests that 2016 natural disaster losses were only US$175bil, already 28.6% higher than the 30 years (1986-2015) annual average of US$126bil.

But how much of these natural disasters are man-made?

Despite US President Trump being sceptical of climate change, the US Global Change Research Program Climate Science Report published this month concludes that “it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century”.

Carbon dioxide concentration already exceed 400 parts per million, last occurred about 3 million years ago, when both global average temperature and sea level were significantly higher than today. Roughly one third of carbon emission is due to residential heating/cooling, one third for transport and one third for industrial production.

Human activities on Mother Earth include over-consumption of natural resources, cutting down forests, polluting waters and excessive cultivation/development that caused desertification or soil erosion. You see this from warmer surface and oceanic temperatures; melting glaciers; diminishing snow cover; shrinking sea ice; rising sea levels; ocean acidification; and declining tree and fish stock.

Oceans warming up

Hurricanes are caused by oceans warming up, building energy and vapour levels that create freak typhoons, tornados and massive downpours. At the same time, droughts are also occurring with more frequency for longer.

Scientists estimate that global average sea level has risen by about 7-8 inches since 1900, with almost half that rise occurring since 1993. Everyday, we hear new extreme events, such as unusually heavy rainfall, heatwaves, large forest fires, floods or landslides.

Climate warming is most observable in the water-stressed Middle East and the North Africa/Sahel region, where rapid population growth created desertification, food shortages, civil conflicts and ultimately, outward migration towards cooler climates, especially Europe. This hot region accounts for 60% of global war casualties since 2000, with 10 million outward refugees. About 90% of the world’s refugees and asylum seekers come from four regions with half under the age of 18 years.

A 2016 World Bank report estimated that these water-stressed countries’ GDP could be reduced by up to 6%, with dire consequences on stability. Without water, industries cannot function, food cannot be cultivated and health can deteriorate due to disease from water-shortage and drought.

European estimates suggest that each refugee costs roughly US$11,600 per person to maintain and there are already one million trying to enter Europe last year. The OECD has classified countries such as Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen as extreme fragile.

Critical point

The world is already reaching a critical turning point. If the Paris Climate Accord can be implemented, with or without the United States, there is some chance of averting further global warming.

But closer home, we are already witnessing the effects of climate change on our daily lives.

In 1972, Hong Kong experienced a devastating landslide near Po Shan Road in Mid-Levels, which caused 67 deaths and collapse of two buildings. One cause was unstable ground following heavy rainfall from Typhoon Rose eleven months prior to the incident.

This tragedy in densely populated Hong Kong resulted in rigorous slope protection and inspection of drains to ensure that these slips do not occur again. I lived near Po Shan Road and admired how Hong Kong engineers regularly inspected the slope protection measures and that the drains were always clear.

In 1993, the collapse of Highland Towers in Kuala Lumpur was partly attributed to the clearing of the hilltop above Highland Towers, which led to soil erosion and the weakening of the foundations. By the time the residents detected cracks in the buildings, it was already too late. Some of my personal friends were among the 48 persons who were killed in that collapse.

Last weekend, Penang (where I live) had the worst rainstorm and floods because we were hit by the tail end of strong winds from Typhoon Damrey, one of the strongest to hit Vietnam in 16 years, leaving 61 people dead. Driving along Penang Bridge, I can see that the continued hilltop developments in Penang are leaving soiled scars on the previously pristine landscape, I am reminded of Highland Towers and Po Shan incidents. Natural disasters are acts of god, but the size of their impact on human lives are completely within our control.

Soil erosion

Soil erosion does not happen overnight, and require responsible developers and conscientious governments, as well as concerned citizens, to be continually vigilant that maintenance of roads and drains, including soil inspections, are serious business with serious consequences.

Modern technology can provide drones and inbuilt sensors that can detect whether erosion is reaching critical levels. Regular maintenance of drains and checks on stability of the soil, especially where there has been recent clearing of trees in steep slopes, will forewarn us all of impending accidents.

As cities are building more and more on hillsides subject to torrential rain, Penang should seek technical expertise from Hong Kong which has extensive expertise on the maintenance of steep hill slopes that are subject to typhoons and sudden rainfall.

Landslides are today used more in political terms than in real terms. The next time landslides happen, residents who watch daily the erosion of their natural environment will know who is really looking after their interests.

Andrew Sheng  By Andrew Sheng

 

Related links:

No hill land approvals since 2008?

by penangforum

Former MBPP councillor Dr Lim Mah Hui wrote this piece for the press in his
personal capacity: I wish to comment on the press statement by Jagdeep
Singh Deo as reported in Berita Daily and many other newspapers on 24
October.

PKR rep cries for a stop to hillside development – Nation

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Penang bald Hillslopes a “time bomb”


Choong (in white) surveying the deforested hillslope next to Majestic Heights.

PENANG MCA has raised concerns about the safety of the residents in Tingkat Paya Terubong 4, right behind the Majestic Heights flats

Its Bukit Gelugor deputy secretary Marvyy Choong said the deforested hill behind the flats, just a stone’s throw away from Block 1, was a time bomb.

“There are 12 blocks of 23-storey flats in Majestic Heights.

“I understand that many residents have already moved out, leaving only a few more, and we’re worried for their safety.

“The surrounding hills are going bald due to ongoing earthwork and the 12 blocks may all collapse during a landslide,” he told a press conference at the flats yesterday.

He added that the hill clearing work was done by a housing project developer, which is also responsible for the paired road linking Bukit Kukus and Bukit Jambul.
Credits – Slides presented by Environmental, health and safety consultant Aziz Noor, and scientist Dr Kam Suan Pheng at the Penang Forum event on Oct 29, 2017
Aishah looking out her window to the hillslope which is just a stone’s throw from her unit

“We are not opposing the paired road project but we’re against high-rise projects in vulnerable areas that may endanger lives,” he said.

Choong said Jalan Paya Terubong was not safe as trees frequently fall during a downpour.

“It is also unsafe for heavy vehicles and they must be banned from using this road after the paired road is completed.”

Meanwhile, housewife Aishah Che Wan, 68, who is living at another apartment scheme near the same hill, said muddy water gushed down the hill on Saturday and Sunday.

“Some small stones damaged a few cars parked by the side of the road,” she said, adding that she now feared for the safety of her family.

“I hope that whoever is clearing the hill will take necessary safety measures to prevent any mishap,” she said. – Starmetro



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Call to reassess Penang hillside projects, councillor addresses full council meeting of MBPP


Council should not bow to development or political pressure, says city councilor, Khoo

 

‘Politicians should be ‘wakil rakyat’ and not ‘wakil pemaju’ – CAP legal advisor Meenakshi


A city councillor has called for the Penang Island City Council to impose a moratorium and reassess all development projects involving hill slopes in the wake of the deadly landslide on Oct 21.

THE Penang Island City Council (MBPP) has been urged to impose a moratorium on hill developments and reassess every hillside and hill slope development projects.

Khoo Salma Nasution said as a new councillor, she was surprised to learn that certain policies and guidelines were made at state level and then passed down to the council without discussion.

“As a body with the expertise and technical experience to handle physical development planning, the council should ensure its own rules are not compromised and should not bow to development pressure or political pressure just because Penang is a land-scarce state.

“The council is tasked with spearheading the city’s physical development according to the Town and Country Planning Act and the State Structure Plan 2020.

“The rules and guidelines must follow the Penang Structure Plan as well as minimum safety and environmental guidelines,” she said in her adjournment speech during the full council meeting at the City Hall yesterday.

Khoo urged the council to reaffirm all policies, processes, and guidelines to protect the hills.

“New planning rules for development projects, taking into account the public interest, environmental interest and the interest of affected stakeholders and neighbourhoods, need to be introduced as well,” she said.

Khoo said according to the State Structure Plan valid until 2020, development density was set at 15 housing units per acre (0.4ha) in a secondary corridor like Tanjung Bungah.

She said 30 units were allowed per acre in a primary corridor and 87 units per acre for transit-oriented development.

“The state government, however, has already raised the development density to 128 units per acre overall.

“When development is not planned according to the right principles, disaster is likely to happen,” she said.

MBPP mayor Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif declined to comment as she had just received a copy of Khoo’s speech.

“I will definitely discuss the matter at the next full council meeting,” she said.

Source: The Star by N. Trisha

Related Links: 

 Penang Forum-nominated councillor addresses full council meeting of MBPP

This is Khoo Salma’s full address (the Malay version below) yesterday: I
was nominated by Penang Forum to be the representative and the voice of
NGOs, including Penang Hills Watch, in the Penang Island City Council
from early this year. My predecessor Dr Lim Mah Hui served with the
council for six years.

 

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Penang floods and landslides, looking beyound natural causes!


Seeking solutions: Penang Forum member and soil expert Dr Kam Suan Pheng giving her views during the dialogue session themed ‘Penang Floods: A Call for Action’ held at Teow Chew Association in Chulia Street, George Town.  (Top pic, front from right) Pulau Betong assemblyman Datuk Dr Muhammad Farid Saad, state Opposition Leader Datuk Jahara Hamid and Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin among the participants.
From left) Sim, Cheah, Dr Norlela, Jahara, Shah Headan, Lee and Yap occupying the front row at the dialogue on floods organised by Penang Forum.

Expert: Debris clogging waterways among reasons for flash floods

Some 200 people comprising mostly politicians, experts and residents gather in a dialogue session to discuss the long-standing problem plaguing Penang. Many voice their concerns that over-development in the state could be the cause of the headache.

HEAVY rainfall and high tides are natural causes of floods which cannot be avoided.

However, soil expert and scientist Dr Kam Suan Pheng said there were also other reasons that caused the constant flash floods in Penang.

She said limited capacity to channel off discharge and surface flow which led to water accumulation downstream were some of the causes that resulted in flash floods.

“These issues have been addressed in flood mitigation.

“However, we also have to tackle the causes of increasing impermeable surface areas and debris clogging up waterways, which are also the root causes of flooding problems,” said Dr Kam in her talk on ‘Understanding the Causes of Floods and Seeking Solutions’ yesterday.

Dr Kam, who is also a Penang Forum member, said having proper planning on land usage and development controls, creating more urban spaces and parks besides river bank protection were also vital in flood prevention.

“Stringent monitoring on development projects and protection of hill land and hillslopes are important.

“To do so, policy and legal instruments have to be deployed, while environmentally sensitive and ecologically friendly structural and non-structural solutions should be adopted,” she said.

Dr Kam was one of the speakers at a dialogue session themed ‘Penang Floods: A Call for Action’ held at the Teow Chew Association in Chulia Street.

<< Stringent protection of hill land and hillslopes are vital, says Dr Kam.

Joint Resident Associations of Bandar Baru Ayer Itam chairman K. Suthakar said that for the past two to three years, residents living in Bandar Baru Ayer Itam have been suffering from flash floods.

He said there were some 20 housing schemes in the township comprising 10,000 housing units with a population of 16,000.

“The residents had to face the brunt of it when the whole city was underwater on Sept 15.

“I visited the retention ponds in Lebuh Rambai and Desa Permata Bandar Baru Ayer Itam on Saturday to check whether the ponds have been deepened.

“Sadly, nothing has been done,” he said.

He asked some of the state assemblymen, who were present at the dialogue session, to raise the issue when the state assembly convenes on Thursday.

When hills are at their natural state, they will not collapse, says Aziz Noor. >>

Environmental, health and safety consultant Aziz Noor, in his talk on ‘Implications of Hillside Development’, said landslides commonly happened on hillsides or slopes that were cleared.

“When the hills are at their natural state, they will not collapse.

“But when the natural state is violated with the slopes being cut, then landslides are bound to happen.

“Whenever there is a downpour on the cut hill slopes, there would be mudslides contributing to muddy flash floods as well,” he said.

Filepic of recent flooding in Taman Thean Tek, Ayer Itam, Penang.

The dialogue session saw a packed hall of almost 200 people, comprising mostly residents and representatives of residents associations who were affected by the recent flash floods.

Several state assemblymen and politicians from both sides of the divide also turned up at the event organised by Penang Forum and Residents Association of Penang.

Among those present were Penang Barisan Nasional chairman Teng Chang Yeow, state Opposition Leader Datuk Jahara Hamid, Pulau Betong assemblyman Datuk Dr Muhammad Farid Saad, Teluk Bahang assemblyman Datuk Shah Headan Ayoob Hussain Shah, Kebun Bunga assemblyman Cheah Kah Peng, Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin, Machang Bubuk assemblyman Lee Khai Loon, Pulau Tikus assemblyman Yap Soo Huey and Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin.

Sources: The Star by Logeiswary Thevadas

Engineer: Look out for ‘ticking time bombs’ from hill slopes

GEORGE TOWN: A geotechnical engineer has warned the authorities that steeply-cut hill slopes are “ticking time bombs” that need constant monitoring and maintenance.

Zeezy Global geotechnical and environmental consultant Aziz Noor said in view of the Tanjung Bungah landslide on Oct 21 that took the lives of 11 workers, all authorities, not only in Penang but throughout Malaysia, should keep an eye on all steep slopes as disaster might strike at any time.

He said although a hill slope might appear fine from the outside, it could be on the brink of collapse due to water pressure and vibrations from the surrounding environment.

“Most of these slopes are clay mixed with sand. Clay has an affinity ( to stick together). At particle level, they can hold up.

“When water comes down steep slopes they break the affinity of these particles. And yet they still hold up but it just speeds up the time of the collapse.

“That is why they do not fall right away. They are a time bomb, a disaster waiting to happen,” he said at a talk hosted by Penang Forum today.

Aziz, an American-trained environmental and geotechnical expert, was manager of an independent consultant engineering firm investigating the aftermath of the Highland Towers collapse in Ulu Kelang, Selangor, in 1993, in which 48 people were killed.

He said hills cut beyond their “natural angle” were the ones to watch out for.

“A hill slope that is cut beyond its natural stable angle is not a stable slope. Such slopes are at high risk of failure and can end up in landslides.

“When you have bare slopes like that, the portion of runoff is large; the steeper the slope, the faster the ‘teh tarik’ (mud slide) comes down.

“Basically, when the water runs off faster, the more erosion it causes, and the faster it will go down to lower-lying areas and cause flash floods with silt,” he said.

Aziz said to prevent such disasters from happening, engineers ought to cut hills at a more natural angle and ensure drain holes are built into them.

He said drain holes would release the “water stress” that might be building up beneath the slopes.

Aziz stressed that these measures were not one-off solutions and required constant monitoring from all parties.

“Ordinary folk might think, okay, looks like a nice concrete wall. But you do not know what is going on underneath, and hence, you need to maintain the hillslopes from time to time.

“That is why you see the slopes on our PLUS highway are constantly being maintained. It is something you do not mess around with,” he said.

Aziz said many construction sites cut corners by placing plastic sheets on cut hillslopes, which would not help much in preventing landslides.

“This is akin to putting a band-aid on a very sick person,” he said.

On the Tanjung Bungah landslide, Aziz said the state authorities must beef up their monitoring teams and place them on full patrol at all sites in the state.

“We need all the ‘jabatan’ (departments) to wake up and not sleep behind the wheel. Present-day laws are adequate to enforce and punish those who flout the law.”

Sources: Free Malaysia Today

Penangites upset with DAP reps for skipping dialogue

Front row, from right) Penang Barisan Nasional chairman Teng Chang Yeow, Pulau Betong representative Muhammad Farid Saad and state opposition leader Jahara Hamid at the Penang Forum dialogue on flood woes and hill site developments. – The Malaysian Insight pic, October 29, 2017.
RESIDENTS associations in Penang today were upset that most of their elected representatives skipped a dialogue on flood woes and hill site developments, as local civil society groups continue to push for a moratorium on hill projects.
Penang Forum, a coalition of local civil society groups, had invited the state’s elected reps, but fewer than 10 turned up at the dialogue that drew about 200 people to the Teochew Association in George Town.
The assemblymen seen among the crowd were state opposition leader Jahara Hamid (Teluk Air Tawar), Muhammad Farid Saad (Pulau Betong) and Shah Headan Ayoob Hussain Shah (Teluk Bahang) from Barisan Nasional (BN); and Cheah Kah Peng (Kebun Bunga), Dr Norlela Ariffin (Penanti) and Lee Khai Loon (Machang Bubok) from PKR.
Pulau Tikus rep Yap Soo Huey was the sole DAP assemblyman present while the only MP at the dialogue was PKR’s Sim Tze Tzin of Bayan Baru. The only other DAP member present was Penang Island City councillor Syerleena Abdul Razak.
Also present were Penang BN chairman Teng Chang Yeow, several Gerakan leaders, and Penang Front Party’s Patrick Ooi, who has been critical of the Penang government in the past.
Jahara said the BN reps in the Penang legislative assembly would table a motion to call for all hill land and slope projects to be halted.
“We are not here to point fingers, but fingers have to be pointed at the authorities,” she said.
Norlela, one of the most vocal PKR reps on local developmental issues, said she hoped Pakatan Harapan and BN could set aside their differences to solve flood woes and developmental issues in the state.
Norlela was one of five PKR government backbenchers who abstained from voting to reject a BN motion on land reclamation during the state legislative assembly in November 2015.
DAP holds the most seats in the Penang legislative assembly with 19 out of 40. PKR has 10 while PAS has one seat. BN’s Umno holds the remaining 10.
In a press conference last week after a landslide in Tanjung Bungah killed 11 construction workers, some residents association reps warned the state government that it could lose votes if it continued to allow hill site developments and ignored the people’s objections.
At the dialogue today, the joint residents association rep for Bandar Baru Ayer Itam, K. Suthakar, took a dig at the elected officials when speaking about flood woes in his area. He said Lebuhraya Thean Teik had “turned into a river” when a bad flood hit last month, causing residents to miss work and school.
“Why do they become elected reps? Because they want to serve the people, to solve their problems. But after the election, you don’t see them for three or four years. People are crying for help but you have no time to come,” he said.
Tanjung Bungah Residents Association chairman Meenakshi Raman also said she had expected more than 10 elected reps to attend the dialogue.
“We are disappointed that not many could attend. We had hoped to see more DAP reps,” she said.
It was learned that DAP had an internal party programme at the same time this morning on mainland Penang in preparation for the party’s special congress on Nov 12 to re-elect its central leadership committee.
Meenakshi said the residents association and other civil groups, which recently criticised the state government over hill site developments and flash flood incidents in Penang, were still willing to engage the powers that be in dialogue.
This was despite the association not getting replies to letters it recently sent out to all Penang assemblymen and MPs on its demands to solve flash flood problems.
“We are ordinary people. We have nothing against them, but some (leaders) have accused us of being arrogant. Elected reps must be accountable. There is nothing wrong with the people asking the state government and their YBs (assemblymen) what they are doing,” she told The Malaysian Insight after the dialogue.

Climate change
Meanwhile, Dr Kam Suan Pheng, an expert in geographical information systems, told the dialogue session that floods in Penang were caused by both weather conditions and human activities, adding that the situation would worsen with climate change.
“Since 2003, the emerging trend for rainfall is increasing. Flash floods will be more frequent, happening at lower rainfall thresholds.
“With climate change, we can expect heavier and more intense rainfall,” she said, adding that Penang’s urban drainage was not well planned enough to prevent floods.
Kam said the authorities must tackle the root causes with proper land use planning and development control, stringent protection of hills and river banks, strict monitoring of development projects, and by increasing the number of urban parks.
She said the authorities must also look beyond the environmental, drainage, transportation and social impacts of individual projects, use existing laws and policies and adopt eco-friendly solutions.
Aziz Noor – a consultant with more than 30 years’ experience in areas of environment, health and safety in Malaysia and overseas – said Penang should take the recent Lembah Permai landslide as a wake-up call.
“Legislative controls are more than adequate but compliance is sporadic. Enforcement has been weak,” said Aziz, who is managing director of Penang-based consulting firm Zeezy Global.
Another speaker at the dialogue, lawyer Agatha Foo, said legally, the state should stop development on ecologically-sensitive land over 76m above sea level and on slopes over 25 degrees gradient using existing laws and guidelines.
She also said the authorities could impose strict enforcement, and seek a jail sentence for company directors whose firms violate the law as a more effective deterrent than fines. – October 29, 2017.

 

Looi Sue-ChernSource: The Malaysian Insight by   
Related Link:

Sole DAP rep heckled at Penang woes talks

The day the earth moved – Analysis

Penang’s ‘balding’ Bukit Relau under the spotlight

Group: Stop approving hill slope projects – Metro News

Forum gets tepid response from reps – Nation

Project’s final approval came from Penang authorities – Nation

Penang DAP: We respect Teh’s decision to quit party – Nation

Tanjung Bungah rep wants to quit DAP – Nation

 

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Front row, from right) Penang Barisan Nasional chairman Teng Chang Yeow, Pulau Betong representative Muhammad Farid Saad and state opposition leader Jahara Hamid at the Penang Forum dialogue on flood woes and hill site developments. – The Malaysian Insight pic, October 29, 2017.

RESIDENTS associations in Penang today were upset that most of their elected representatives skipped a dialogue on flood woes and hill site developments, as local civil society groups continue to push for a moratorium on hill projects.

Penang Forum, a coalition of local civil society groups, had invited the state’s elected reps, but fewer than 10 turned up at the dialogue that drew about 200 people to the Teochew Association in George Town.

The assemblymen seen among the crowd were state opposition leader Jahara Hamid (Teluk Air Tawar), Muhammad Farid Saad (Pulau Betong) and Shah Headan Ayoob Hussain Shah (Teluk Bahang) from Barisan Nasional (BN); and Cheah Kah Peng (Kebun Bunga), Dr Norlela Ariffin (Penanti) and Lee Khai Loon (Machang Bubok) from PKR.

Pulau Tikus rep Yap Soo Huey was the sole DAP assemblyman present while the only MP at the dialogue was PKR’s Sim Tze Tzin of Bayan Baru. The only other DAP member present was Penang Island City councillor Syerleena Abdul Razak.

Also present were Penang BN chairman Teng Chang Yeow, several Gerakan leaders, and Penang Front Party’s Patrick Ooi, who has been critical of the Penang government in the past.

Jahara said the BN reps in the Penang legislative assembly would table a motion to call for all hill land and slope projects to be halted.

“We are not here to point fingers, but fingers have to be pointed at the authorities,” she said.

Norlela, one of the most vocal PKR reps on local developmental issues, said she hoped Pakatan Harapan and BN could set aside their differences to solve flood woes and developmental issues in the state.

Norlela was one of five PKR government backbenchers who abstained from voting to reject a BN motion on land reclamation during the state legislative assembly in November 2015.

DAP holds the most seats in the Penang legislative assembly with 19 out of 40. PKR has 10 while PAS has one seat. BN’s Umno holds the remaining 10.

In a press conference last week after a landslide in Tanjung Bungah killed 11 construction workers, some residents association reps warned the state government that it could lose votes if it continued to allow hill site developments and ignored the people’s objections.

At the dialogue today, the joint residents association rep for Bandar Baru Ayer Itam, K. Suthakar, took a dig at the elected officials when speaking about flood woes in his area. He said Lebuhraya Thean Teik had “turned into a river” when a bad flood hit last month, causing residents to miss work and school.

“Why do they become elected reps? Because they want to serve the people, to solve their problems. But after the election, you don’t see them for three or four years. People are crying for help but you have no time to come,” he said.

Tanjung Bungah Residents Association chairman Meenakshi Raman also said she had expected more than 10 elected reps to attend the dialogue.

“We are disappointed that not many could attend. We had hoped to see more DAP reps,” she said.

It was learned that DAP had an internal party programme at the same time this morning on mainland Penang in preparation for the party’s special congress on Nov 12 to re-elect its central leadership committee.

Meenakshi said the residents association and other civil groups, which recently criticised the state government over hill site developments and flash flood incidents in Penang, were still willing to engage the powers that be in dialogue.

This was despite the association not getting replies to letters it recently sent out to all Penang assemblymen and MPs on its demands to solve flash flood problems.

“We are ordinary people. We have nothing against them, but some (leaders) have accused us of being arrogant. Elected reps must be accountable. There is nothing wrong with the people asking the state government and their YBs (assemblymen) what they are doing,” she told The Malaysian Insight after the dialogue.

Climate change

Meanwhile, Dr Kam Suan Pheng, an expert in geographical information systems, told the dialogue session that floods in Penang were caused by both weather conditions and human activities, adding that the situation would worsen with climate change.

“Since 2003, the emerging trend for rainfall is increasing. Flash floods will be more frequent, happening at lower rainfall thresholds.

“With climate change, we can expect heavier and more intense rainfall,” she said, adding that Penang’s urban drainage was not well planned enough to prevent floods.

Kam said the authorities must tackle the root causes with proper land use planning and development control, stringent protection of hills and river banks, strict monitoring of development projects, and by increasing the number of urban parks.

She said the authorities must also look beyond the environmental, drainage, transportation and social impacts of individual projects, use existing laws and policies and adopt eco-friendly solutions.

Aziz Noor – a consultant with more than 30 years’ experience in areas of environment, health and safety in Malaysia and overseas – said Penang should take the recent Lembah Permai landslide as a wake-up call.

“Legislative controls are more than adequate but compliance is sporadic. Enforcement has been weak,” said Aziz, who is managing director of Penang-based consulting firm Zeezy Global.

Another speaker at the dialogue, lawyer Agatha Foo, said legally, the state should stop development on ecologically-sensitive land over 76m above sea level and on slopes over 25 degrees gradient using existing laws and guidelines.

She also said the authorities could impose strict enforcement, and seek a jail sentence for company directors whose firms violate the law as a more effective deterrent than fines. – October 29, 2017.

 

Looi Sue-ChernSource: The Malaysian Insight by   
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Penang floods, support pours in for dialogue


(From left) Dr Kam will deliver a talk on ‘Understanding the Causes of Floods and Seeking Solutions. State assemblymen expressing interest in attending are Dr Norlela, Cheah, Muhamad Farid, Ooi and Shah Headan.

School students and the public wading through floodwaters in Jalan Trengganu
The evacuation of stranded residents using a boat in Taman Thean Tek during the Sept 15 floods.
Filepix of cars getting stalled on flooded Jalan Ayer Itam

MORE than 10 elected representatives from Pakatan Rakyat and Barisan Nasional have so far confirmed their attendance at the dialogue session ‘Penang Floods: A Call for Action’ to discuss floods at the Teow Chew Association in Chulia Street on Sunday from 10am till noon.

Kebun Bunga assemblyman Cheah Kah Peng from PKR said the briefing was a good initiative to gather feedback from the people.

“As people’s representatives, we should always have a positive mind dtowards discussions, whether it is positive or negative.

“Dialectics process is necessary to get to the bottom of a problem,” he said yesterday.

Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin, also from PKR, believes the dialogue session would be a great resource for her to learn more about what was happening on the island.

“I have always been concerned about the flooding woes in my constituency and other parts on the mainland.

“I want to know more about flooding on the island too,” she said.

Dr Norlela said the input from the session would be useful for help to raise questions in the state assembly sitting from Nov 2.

Teluk Bahang assemblyman Datuk Shah Headan Ayoob Hussain Shah from Barisan Nasional said the session would be a good platform for the people and affected flood victims to raise their concerns.

“Our priority is to help the rakyat (people) and we will come in support of them,” he said.

Tanjung Bungah assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu, from the DAP, said he would send two of his representatives to the session.

“I will raise flood issues during the assembly sitting. I have done this many times before,” he said.

Pulau Betong assemblyman Muhammad Farid Saad said he would be attending a function in his constituency. However, he said he would try to attend the dialogue “even though I may be late.”

Jelutong MP Jeff Ooi said he would be attending an event to foster unity between Muslims and non-Muslims at Jamek Mosque in his constituency at the same time.

“I will be late if the event at the mosque starts late,” he said.

The dialogue will be moderated by Penang Forum steering committee member Ahmad Chik.

Forum member Dr Kam Suan Pheng, a soil expert and scientist, will deliver a talk on ‘Understand-ing the Causes of Floods and Seeking Solutions’.

Lawyer Datuk Agatha Foo will talk on ‘Laws and Guidelines Relating to Hill Land and Hill Slope Development’.

Consumers Association of Penang legal adviser Meenakshi Raman will touch on the ‘Demands of Residents’ Associations of Penang’ and it will be followed by the dialogue session.

Meenakshi, who is Tanjung Bungah Residents Association chairman, urged resident associations and management corporations to attend the event.

She said 24 resident associations, management corporations and residents groups had joined the Residents’ Associations of Penang which was formed last year.

“We hope more will sign up. More members means more strength in handling issues affecting the community,” she said.

For details on the dialogue, email penangforumm@gmail.com or call 04-8299511 (Jaspal).

Source: The Star by Logeiswary Thevadass

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Penang Paya Terubong Residents living under shadow of fear!


Put on hold: A view of the site for the development of four apartment buildings in Paya Terubong, Air Itam.

GEORGE TOWN: Since the deadly landslide in Tanjung Bungah, people in Paya Terubong are looking over their shoulder – and up at a nearby hill.

They have been trying for years to stop a project comprising four towers, each over 40 storeys tall, approved on a hillside across the road from their homes.

Because the project has already been approved, the residents are down to one last resort – the state Planning Appeals Board.

“We must try. The only thing between our homes and those four towers will be a new two-way street that the developer will build if this project goes on,” said Taman Sri Rambai and Taman Lau Geok Swee Residents’ Association chairman Dr Ti Lian Geh.

The plan, he said, was supposed to be six-storey townhouses but the developer put in a request to change it to high-density apartments.

He said the residents have been living in fear after learning that the development plan was changed to three blocks of 47-storey luxury apartments and a 41-storey block of affordable housing.

He said a hearing is ongoing with the Planning Appeals Board to stop the development.

“Building skyscrapers on a steep hillslope is dangerous. If the towers come down, the whole neighbourhood will be gone,” he said, adding that the high-density project will also worsen traffic congestion there.

He told a press conference yesterday that the earthworks two years ago caused frequent flash floods, mudslides and torrential mudflows in the neighbourhood.

Penang MCA and Gerakan, which organised the press conference, urged the state government to revoke the approval.

Bukit Gelugor MCA division deputy secretary Choong Jun Jie said that every time there is a downpour, the residents worry.

“We do not want another tragedy,” he said.

Penang Gerakan vice-chairman Oh Tong Keong said people’s lives are in jeopardy when highrise projects are given priority.

The staggered hillslope is now covered with geotextile sheets after the Penang Island City Council issued a stop-work order about two years ago.

Penang Island City Council Engineering Department director Addnan Mohd Razali said all construction work there except for mitigation measures have been stopped pending the outcome of the residents’ appeal.

Source: The Star by Logeiswary Thevadass and Rena Lim

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Penang landslide, whose faults?


GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Island City Council has lodged a police report against the consultant of the affordable housing project that was hit by a landslide in Tanjung Bungah on Saturday, claiming the lives of 11 workers.

This is because the state government wants the matter investigated and the responsible parties to be charged, state Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said.

He stressed that the incident was a construction site accident.

“We hope the council and other related agencies will give their fullest cooperation to the police,” he told a press conference at Komtar yesterday.

At the same conference, Mayor Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif acknowledged that the project was rejected by the Department of Environment (DOE) but said it was approved by the state because it complied with Penang’s Safety Guidelines for Hill Site Development 2012.

Besides, she said, the DOE had approved a residential project and a private education institution that were even closer to the quarry.

“It is located more than 500m from the quarry’s blasting point while federal guidelines only require a minimum distance of 350m.

“The project’s site is zoned as ‘general residential’ and the slope gradient is less than 20°.

What a mess: Some groups believe that if the
DOE’s advice had been heeded, the landslide tragedy could have been
avoided. — Bernama

“The land is also less than 76m above sea level with the site located on a contour between 18m and 40m,” she said.

Maimunah said that based on all the requirements, the council’s One-Stop Centre (OSC) – which comprises members from more than 20 technical agencies at state and federal level – agreed to approve the project.

The OSC is in charge of approving property development plans on the island.

“The earthworks planning permission was presented to the OSC on May 14, 2015, and it was approved with conditions on June 6, 2015, while the commencement of work approval was given on Jan 18 last year,” she said.

However, the Tanjung Bungah Residents Association was not happy with the reasons given by the council for allowing the project.

“How could the council ignore the advice when the DOE is the authority responsible for protecting the environment?” association chairman Meenakshi Raman asked.

Penang Island City Council mayor Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif telling a press conference that the project met state guidelines.

“If they had heeded the DOE’s advice, this tragedy could have been avoided and lives would not have been lost.”

“We feel betrayed … the state government failed to listen to us,” she said yesterday, commenting on Maimunah’s statements at the press conference.

Penang Federal Action Council chairman Datuk Seri Zainal Abidin Osman urged the state government to immediately set up an independent body to audit all approvals of hillslope development projects made by the various state authorities.

“The Penang government has to take responsibility and be accountable for the tragedy involving the loss of 11 lives.

“We ask it to stop blaming others for any accident which occurred since it became the state government.

“We are surprised that a project which was not supported by a technical department was still given approval by the state authority,” he said in a statement.

An undertaker (in white) and a priest performing prayers at the scene of
the landslide for site supervisor Yuan Kuok Wern, 27, who was killed in
the tragedy.

The Institution of Engineers Malaysia (IEM) also came forward to offer technical assistance and opinions in the investigation.

Its president Dr Tan Yean Chin said in a statement that IEM is recognised locally and internationally as a professional body representing a wide cross-section of the engineering practice.

“As a learned society with over 40,000 members and affiliated to several international engineering organisations, IEM is able to offer expert opinions on this tragic event,” he said.

Source: The Starby lo tern chern, logeiswary thevadass, cavina lim, crystal chiam shiying, r. sekaran, rahmah ghazali, danial albakri

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