Penang Landslide occured days after remedial works started


Cracks at Tanjung Bungah site began in June, Commissioner of Inquiry told

Expert panel: (From right) Yeo, Dr Gue and Prof Ramli arriving for the inquiry.

GEORGE TOWN: A temporary structure supporting a worksite slope in Tanjung Bungah developed cracks in mid-June, a Commissioner of Inquiry heard.

Soil Mechanic Sdn Bhd director Cheah Wing How, who was a sub-contractor of the project where a landslide killed 11 workers, said he was informed by a clerk to carry out remedial works as the granite wall had cracked.

Cheah said his team left after completing the granite works and soil-nailing works to enhance the stability of the temporary slope.

There was, however, no mention when they completed the works.

“When we returned, we found there were pile cap excavation works carried out near the slope.

“We believe there was soil movement that resulted in the cracks on the granite wall.

“We were carrying out remedial works and 11 days into the job, the landslide happened,” said Cheah, who has 20 years’ experience in the field.

Cheah was testifying on the first day of the public hearing into the landslide tragedy by the State Commission of Inquiry (SCI) at City Hall in Esplanade yesterday.

On Oct 21, last year, a landslide hit the affordable condominium project made up of two 49-storey towers with 980 units in total within the Permai Village township near the Tunku Abdul Rahman University College.

Among the 11 killed was site supervisor Yuan Kuok Wern, 27.

During the proceeding, the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) also presented eight drone videos that showed the slope and the surrounding area after the tragic incident.

SCI chairman Datuk Yeo Yong Poh said they planned to carry out a site visit tomorrow.

He also fixed the hearing to continue until Monday, followed by Feb 8 to Feb 11, March 24 to March 28 and April 18 to 25.

Other members of the commission are geotechnical expert Datuk Dr Gue See Sew and forensic geo-technical engineer from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Prof Ramli Nazir.

The SCI was gazetted on Dec 21 last year to investigate the landslide after Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Rahman Abbas gave his consent on Dec 6, 2017, for the appointment of the members of the commission and its terms of reference.

Meanwhile, Penang Citizens Awareness Chant Group (Chant) adviser Yan Lee said the entrance to the Teik Granite Quarry, which is located near the site where the landslide occurred, should be fenced up.

“Anyone can just walk into the site as the safety measure is not up to mark.

“We have voiced our concern to the Penang Island City Council, the Department of Environment as well as the Land and Mines Department,” he said yesterday.

By Chong Kah Yuan and Jo-Leen Wong The Star

Related Links:

Contractors in jitters over temporary slopes – Nation

Boulders slid down hill prior to disaster – Nation

//players.brightcove.net/4405352761001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5719810415001
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Penang hit by floods again !


GEORGE TOWN: Some 20 houses located on a slope in Hong Seng Estate in Mount Erskine were flooded due to blocked underground drainage.

“Not again!” was the reaction of factory worker S. Kalaiselvi, 42, who found herself neck-deep in water at her house at 2am yesterday after a three-hour downpour.

She waded through the water to higher ground with her parents, who are in their 60s.

“I have been living here for 26 years and only now am I seeing such floods,” said Kalaiselvi, who also had to move out when her house was hit by the massive floods on Nov 4 and 5 last year.

Her father Subramanian Peru­mal, 68, said he was still waiting for the relevant authorities to resolve the problem.

At the site, firemen had to install a water pump to draw out the rainwater, which flooded most of the units to waist level at one point.

It was the third time that the area was flooded since October last year.

Last Oct 30, blocked underground drainage caused floodings affecting six houses during an evening downpour, followed by massive floods during the Nov 4 and 5 storm.

On Sept 29 last year, seven houses in the estate were also affected by soil erosion.

Consultant engineer Datuk Lim Kok Khong had said the soil erosion was due to water seeping under the ground.

Kebun Bunga assemblyman Cheah Kah Peng, who has been barred from helping out with the registration of flood victims for the one-off RM700 aid given by the Penang government, was also there but offered no concrete solution to the floods in the area.

Pulau Tikus assemblyman Yap Soo Huey said nine houses had to be demolished to make way for repair works.

She said they had offered owners of the nine affected houses a low medium-cost unit each as compensation, but the residents insisted on staying put.

Earlier, Penang Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said the latest floods were caused by the continuous downpour that began on Thursday evening.

“The rain also coincided with a 2.34mm high tide at 2.30am yesterday,” he said.

Chow said the short-term measures to deal with the floods were to dig and deepen the rivers, and carry out upgrading and cleaning works at riverbanks to ensure that there were no blockages.

In Bukit Mertajam, a low wall sealing off the entrance to a lorry driver’s house prevented it from being submerged in floodwaters all over again.

While the water on the road outside was up to knee level, Heng Kai Chin’s home remained relatively dry, thanks to the metre-high barrier of cement and bricks.

But Heng, 43, still skipped work yesterday to keep an eye on the flooding.

A state flood report said water had entered at least 100 homes in Bukit Mertajam.

Source: The Staronline

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Penang struck by yet another deluge

PENANGITES woke up to a cloudy and rainy morning as continuous downpour lasting for hours inundated several parts of the state.
Wet day: Students wading through floodwaters at SMK Mak Mandin in
Butterworth, Penang. (Left) Motorists braving through the waters on the
flyover at Sungai Nibong, Bayan Lepas. — MUSTAFA AHMAD/The Star and
social mediapic

 

 

Metre-high wall keeps flood out of his home

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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

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 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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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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Dec 11, 2015  The spate of hill clearings has prompted the Penang Forum, a coalition of public interest NGOs, to hold a forum on Save the Hills of Penang …

 

Penang Forum tells Chief Minister: the unmitigated disasters on hill projects


The Penang Forum steering committee released the following ‘executive summary’ to the media during its meeting with the chief minister of Penang

The Penang Forum steering committee released the following ‘executive summary’ to the media during its meeting with the chief minister of Penang:

To address public concerns over hill degradation in Penang, the Penang Forum took the initiative in September 2015 to co-organise a public forum on hill development with the MBPP and relevant Penang state authorities.

But the council and the state decided not to participate in the effort and missed the opportunity to engage with the public.

In organising the public forum, the Penang Forum is non-partisan and has not been influenced by any other body or organisation.

The Penang Forum has not been misinformed. Its information and data came from two sources:

  • answers provided by the State Exco to the State Assembly sitting in November 2015 on the number of legal projects and illegal clearings on sensitive hill land between 2008 and 2015; and
  • photographs provided by members of public, resident associations, Google Earth satellite imagery and drone shots.
    The scarring on Bukit Relau has grown into an unmitigated disaster. Despite a stop work order and a fine against those responsible, major earthworks, including the building of road infrastructure, have taken place.

While it is technically possible to build safely on hill slopes many stringent conditions must first be in place and complied with. The present approach to environmental and engineering impact assessment done in isolation for individual hill development projects should be reviewed.

The Penang Forum calls on the Penang state government to comply with its own stated policies of prohibiting development on hill land above 76m (250 feet) and/or with a gradient greater than 25 degrees.

Special projects should be limited only to those of public interest.

We recommend that the authorities implement a holistic planning and monitoring system that takes account of cumulative impacts for the whole hill area under development.

We call for violators to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, including jail sentences and to be blacklisted for future projects.

We call upon the authorities to require all offenders to restore the damaged hills to their original condition.

Penang Forum steering committee
11 January 2016

Related:

Penang Forum | Towards local democracy and sustainable …

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


Under fire over hill slope developments

Penangites upset with approval of high-rises on slopes…

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang government has come under fire for the clearing of hills and high number of high-rise buildings approved on slopes above the permitted 76m and 25-degree gradient.

Environmentalist and scientist Dr Kam Suan Pheng claimed that massive hill clearing from 2008 to 2015 at Pantai Acheh and Teluk Bahang endangered the lush hills at the Penang National Park boundary where the Teluk Bahang Dam is situated.

She also said the state government claims to listen to the people but went ahead and redesignated Bukit Relau, infamously known as Botak Hill, as a residential zone in 2012 amidst massive protest against the development of the hill.

She also decried the big number of projects approved on slopes above 76m and 25-degree gradient when the Penang Structure Plan clearly stated that there could be no development on such slopes.

Dr Kam was delivering a talk titled, ‘What is happening to our hills’ at the Save The Hills of Penang public forum at Dewan Sri Pinang here yesterday.

A handout distributed to the 300-odd participants of the event claimed that 30 blocks of high-rise buildings were approved on such slopes in Paya Terubong, 15 blocks in Bayan Lepas, 14 blocks in the Tanjung Bungah/Batu Ferringhi belt and nine blocks in Teluk Kumbar/Balik Pulau.

Universiti Sains Malaysia deputy vice-chancellor Dr Sharom Ahmat said hill development above 76m could be approved under ‘special projects’ if it benefits the masses but added that “bungalows costing RM4mil to RM5mil are barely for the people.”

In his talk titled, ‘Why are we here today?’, he claimed that public hearings seemed to be more of a formality as decisions were made before such hearings.

Environmentalist and engineer K.K. Lim, in his presentation ‘Are our hills protected by the government’, said the rampant development on the hills could see a repeat of the Highland Towers tragedy in 1993.

He said soil erosion due to rain and the lack of water retention because of hill clearing could bring a major disaster in the event of a landslide.

In her talk ‘Hill Offenders: Fine? Jail? Nothing?’, lawyer Datuk Agatha Foo said the RM500,000 and RM50,000 fines for violations under the Town and Country Planning Act and State Drainage and Building Act respectively were not a deterrent.

“It is merely a slap on the wrist,” she said, claiming that developers pay the fine as part of their development expenditure.

A declaration was made at the end of the half-day forum. It among others, urged the state government to comply with its own policy of prohibiting development on hill land above 76m or greater than 25-degree gradient and not to include ordinary residential buildings as special projects.

It also called upon the state government and Penang Island City Council to prosecute violators to the full extent of the law, including imposing jail sentences and to blacklist all offenders for future development projects.

Two PKR elected representatives were among those who attended the event organised by the Penang Forum which is a loose coalition of public-interest civil society groups. They were Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin and Batu Uban assemblyman Dr T. Jayabalan.

By Sekaran The Star

Forum Declaration & Recommendation:

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Uphill battle: A hiker passing by a vegetable farm on Penang Hill overlooking Air Itam. penangforum.net Treasured heritage seems t…

 

Save Penang Hill from the greedy


Uphill battle: A hiker passing by a vegetable farm on Penang Hill overlooking Air Itam.

Treasured heritage seems to be losing its charm to illegal farms and development

THE stall at the Air Itam market in Penang is said to offer the best asam laksa in Malaysia.

Rain or shine, it pulls in the crowd.

The ingredients for the dish such as ginger bud (bunga kantan), mint leaves (daun pudina), laksa leaves (daun kesum) and kalamansi limes (limau kasturi) come from Penang Hill, which is less than 200m away.

Farmers who cultivate the land at the hillslope sell their produce at the wet markets on the island.

The fertile hillslope from Air Itam to Paya Terubong is cultivated with vegetables and fruits.

Demand for the produce is so great that farmers are illegally clearing the hillslope to expand their farms.

About 2km from the market along Jalan Paya Terubong, there is a trail leading to a hillslope.

Lately, hikers and mountain bike enthusiasts have been using the trail to reach the 135-year-old Cheng Kon Tse Temple, nestled on the slope of the hill.

Travellers can see vegetable farms and fruit trees on both sides of the trail.

There are nutmeg trees, kalamansi lime trees, papaya and banana trees.

The vegetables include lemon grass, lady fingers and sweet potato.

As one continues walking up, a large swathe of hillslope which had been cleared near the telecommunication towers comes into view.

The bald patch can be seen from the Paya Terubong road below.

The slopes on Penang Hill have been cleared by farmers over the past few decades.

Such illegal hillslope clearing has been raised by environmental groups but there has been no firm action from the authorities.

A former Penang Island City Councillor claimed that he had provided pictures of the clearings to state leaders and that he had also raised the matter with the Consumers Association of Penang and Malaysian Nature Society.

“The press should continue to highlight the issue so that something is done finally,” said the former councillor who did not want to be identified for fear that the farmers might go after him.

“Penang Hill is our heritage. But no one seems to bother,” he said.

Besides Penang Hill, bald patches are also appearing on hills in several parts of the island.

Bukit Relau in Jalan Bukit Gambier has been dubbed “botak hill”.

There is also hill clearance in Bukit Kukus in Paya Terubong and Bukit Laksamana, a water catchment for the Teluk Bahang Dam.

More and more hillslopes are going bald because of developers and contractors who cleared the land without the authorities’ approval.

The clearings are done on weekends and smoke can be seen from far when the trees are burnt.

A large swathe of land has also been cleared at a place referred by hikers as level 45 station.

It should not be difficult to nab the culprits since there are cemented trails all over the hillslopes in Air Itam and Paya Terubong.

When The Star reported on Feb 14 last year that more bald spots could be seen, a state exco member said they had pictures of the illegal activity and that action would be taken against the culprits but till now, no one knows what the action is.

It is troubling that all this is happening under a state government which emphasises on Competency, Accountability and Transparency.

Penang Hill seems to be losing its charm.

Yet, the state government seems to be focused on mega projects and land reclamation.

At a state assembly sitting last month, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the Penang Island City Council was using drones to check on illegal hill clearing and CCTVs would be installed next year to monitor illegal earthworks.

The spate of hill clearings has prompted the Penang Forum, a coalition of public interest NGOs, to hold a forum on Save the Hills of Penang tomorrow.

Hopefully, the outcome from the event will reach the right ears.

There is a compelling need to save the hills from greedy farmers and developers.

Comment by K. Suthakdar

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