Hills clearing in Penang: NGOs not impressed with mitigation work at Botak Hill


Video:

http://www.thestar.com.my/metro/community/2016/01/28/searing-queries-on-clearing-ngos-not-impressed-with-mitigation-work-at-botak-hill/
An aerial shot taken from the bald patch on Bukit Relau, George Town, during a visit by the state delegation and NGOs to check on the mitigation work. — Photos: CHARLES MARIASOOSAY.

Chow (left) being briefed by technical consultant Khoo Koon Tai during the visit up Bukit Relau.

THE climb up the steep track on Bukit Relau is an arduous one. And there is little reward now for those who endure the climb.

The infamous Botak Hill seems to be getting balder. It’s a sad sight. What was once a lush hill had become a wide open patch of brown. Now, it is a giant scar of boulder, sand and concrete. The developer General Accomplish-ment Sdn Bhd is carrying out mitigation work which it says will be completed in June this year. For now, however, the hill looks worse than it did before.

The trip up the hill was arranged by the state and led by Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow. Others in the entourage included Deputy Chief Minister 1, Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon, executive councillors, state assemblyman, Penang Forum and Malaysia Nature Society, Penang.

It was no surprise that the NGO members were not impressed with the mitigation work. The condition of the hill has deteriorated so badly. The only greenery in sight were patches of grass on the boulders.

The NGOs are even more upset that with less than six months before the mitigation work is completed, there seems to be no plan in place to halt the erosion of the hill or to carry out restoration work, which will have to include replanting of trees, the undergrowth and comprehensive hydroseeding.

Roads and drainage systems built right down the hill have destroyed whatever greenery there was. The explanation given was that the roads were needed for the mitigation work rings hollow. “How can you carry out mitigation work and clear more land for the so called roads for mitigation work,” asked a Penang Forum member.

There are metal poles bordering a part of the hill, and it look like some hoarding is about to come up. Is there any development being planned for the spot of the hill?

A spokesman for the developer, General Accomplishment Sdn Bhd said RM20mil has been spent so far for the mitigation work and the amount could rise to RM50mil.

“Why would you want to spend RM50mil for mitigation work if you are not going to do anything with the land,” asked a reporter.

“Well, we are open to development of the land if that is what the people want,” replied the project manager for the developer.

Chow was non-committal when asked if the state would reject any development on the land saying it was a “hypothetical” question as there wasn’t any application (to develop the land).

Despite the long explanation, the burning question remains.

Will the hill be restored to its old state and or is the mitigation work just the start of plans to develop the hill for housing.

It was rezoned for housing in 2012.

By K. Sekaran The Star

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Errant hill clearing by developers causes of floods, sinkholes, seepages damaged houses!


Land clearing in Penang is rampant with Civil liberties group, Penang Forum (PF) revealing only 7.4 per cent of the state is categorised as forested land. NSTP pix
Location : Near Lintang Bukit Jambul 1
Approximate Coordinates : 5°20’38.47″N,100°16’52.82″E
Report sent in August 2016. Photos taken in November 2016 and 2014. PHW Report 15 pix.

 

GEORGE TOWN: Penang has acknowledged that nine out of 29 hill clearing cases on the island, as reported by Penang Forum , were illegal.

Penang Forum representative Rexy Prakash Chacko said state Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow and Penang Island City Council (MBPP) had a discussion with them last week.

This came about after the forum’s first Penang Hills Watch (PHW) report on hill clearing cases was submitted to the state on Jan 2.

“They investigated the report and concluded that only nine were illegal clearing activities while the rest were legally permitted land works (14) and natural slope failure (one). The other five cases are still being investigated by the relevant departments.

“The illegal clearing cases have been issued with stop work orders or are being followed up by court action,” he said on Saturday.

Chacko commended Penang’s concern and transparency in responding to the PHW report.

He urged for close monitoring on the nine illegal clearing cases and for mitigation action to be taken to rehabilitate the areas if necessary.

“For those with permits, the forum hopes that the clearing will strictly adhere to the state laws on land works and drainage.”

Chow, when met at Datuk Keramat assemblyman Jagdeep Singh Deo’s CNY open house in Taman Free School, said he had discussed with Penang Forum members about the report and answered their queries.

The public can view the PHW report as well as the response from the state government at the Penang Hills Watch Facebook page (@PenangHillsWatch) or the Penang Forum website, and see them interactively on a map at the Penang Hills Watch page.

PHW, a citizen-oriented initiative to provide a platform to monitor activities affecting the hills of Penang, was launched in October last year by Penang Forum, a loose coalition of non-political civil society groups often critical of the state government’s plans and policies. –  The Star

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Penang Forum launches Penang Hills Watch | Malaysia

Dec 26, 2016 Dr Lim has raised various concerns during his stint as a councillor and forum member on issues related to hill clearing, land reclamation, …

Council slow to act on Botak Hill which is to be patched up soon


An eyesore: Mitigation works being carried out to restore the cleared slopes of Bukit Relau.An eyesore: Mitigation works being carried out to restore the cleared slopes of Bukit Relau.
Council slow to act on Botak Hill

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Island City Council has come under fire for taking such a long time to tackle the illegal hill clearing at Bukit Relau.

Bayan Baru PKR MP Sim Tze Tzin (pcs left) said it should not have taken so long to carry out mitigation work at the 22.89ha site which became known as Botak Hill after it was cleared.

“When the issue broke out in 2013, I called a senior council officer who told me that it would be settled within six months.

“But after two years, the problem is still not settled.

“This is not rocket science. What is so difficult?” he told a press conference yesterday in Sungai Dua near here.

Sim said someone should be held responsible for the delay and urged the state to find the culprit.

“The person has to be punished as this has to do with accountability.

“If you cannot do the job, then resign to let other people do it,” he said.

Sim was commenting on the latest news report which stated that the mitigation work being carried out by General Accomplishment Sdn Bhd was scheduled to be completed by October. – The Star 15/7/15

Botak Hill to be patched up soon

GEORGE TOWN: Mitigation works on Bukit Relau, infamously known as Botak Hill after a section of its top slope was cleared in 2013, is scheduled to be completed by October.The Penang Island City Council (MBPP) said the mitigation works started in April and was expected to be completed in six months.

The council said it had endorsed the Erosion and Sedimentation Control Plan (ESCP) and slope strengthening design to mitigate landslips and pollution caused by mud flow based on the proposal by the geotechnical consultant appointed by General Accomplish-ment Sdn Bhd which owns the cleared site.

MBPP said the mitigation plan was vetted by the state’s Hillside Geotechnical Advisory Panel chairman Dr Gue See Sew.

General Accomplishment was fined RM30,000 by a Sessions Court here in July 2013 after a represen-tative pleaded guilty on behalf of the company to clearing the 22.89ha site between April 24 and May 8 the same year without obtaining written approval from then Penang Municipal Council (MPPP).

The offence under Section 70 A of the Street, Drainage and Buildings Act 1974 carries a maximum five-year imprisonment or maximum RM50,000 fine, or both.

MBPP said in a statement yesterday that the mitigation measures include the building of a few catchment and sedimentation ponds along the access route to the site, cutting the slope to reduce its steepness and covering the exposed slope with vegetation.

The council said the works also involved the building of cascading drains along the access route to dissipate the energy of surface runoff and mitigate soil erosion.

Several residents living nearby had earlier this month raised their concern after seeing earthworks being done at the site.

MBPP said the land cutting was done to allow access for heavy vehicles and to carry out rock blasting.

It said huge boulders needed to be removed to ensure a safe route and for the mitigation works to proceed, adding that the rock blasting was approved by the Minerals and Geoscience Depart-ment and police.

MBPP said it would continue to monitor the works to ensure that it was carried out in accordance with the approved mitigation plan.

It said grass had been planted on the access route to prevent erosion and that more plants could now be seen on the cleared slope. – The Star 14/7/15

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