Wanted: Leaders who listen !


Turning a blind eye: The grumblings over exposed hills are growing louder but little is being done to rectify the situation

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 Grievances from residents warning of environmental damages must not fall on deaf ears

 “Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.

MY family home in Kampung Melayu, Air Itam in Penang, is more than 56 years old. That’s about my age, and it has never been hit by floods. Not once!

But last week, my parents – dad is 92 years old and mum, 86, – had their sleep rudely interrupted sometime after 1am by water gushing into their home.

They have been sleeping on the ground floor for years now because they are too old to climb the stairs to their bedroom.

The water that flowed into their room almost touched the top of their bed but fortunately, one of my nephews and his wife from Kuala Lumpur were staying over that night.

It was so fortunate that they were there to calm my anxious parents down and assure them all would be fine. They managed to comfort my stunned folks, who had never experienced such an unpleasant situation before. My father had to be carried to the room upstairs as the house remained flooded throughout the early morning.

Our home was filled with layers of mud the next day and the cars parked outside were all damaged. They sadly look like write-offs.

My father’s pride and joy, his first-generation Proton Saga car – which he bought in 1985 – is now unusable.

A week on, my brothers and nieces are still cleaning up the mess from the massive flood. They haven’t had the time or mood to even assess the financial losses.

And bound by a common sentiment as Penangites, they are tired of the blame game, a trade the state’s politicians have plied to near-perfection.

How many times can the finger be pointed at the previous government, with the incumbent almost 10 years in power? And how many more times can we blame it on torrential rain, which came from Vietnam – or wherever? Worst of all is, when discussions are mooted on flood issues, the voices of the people are swiftly silenced.

It appears that even to talk about hillslope development, one would have to contest in the elections, or be perceived to be challenging the state government, or more extremely, be some kind of lackey in cahoots with the Federal Government.

Blaming everyone else except oneself is simply a way of covering up one’s weaknesses. But the discerning public, in a maturing democracy with heightened transparency and a huge middle class like Penang, will not tolerate such short-term manoeuvring for long.

Suddenly, civil society – a buzzword among politicians – has vanished, with NGOs now regarded as irritants and an affront to the state establishment. Politics is apparently the monopoly of politicians now.

As the National Human Rights Society aptly puts it, “With the benefit of hindsight, we are sure that the Penang government now realises that they should not so readily malign civil society, howsoever obliquely – for the legitimate and well-founded articulation of matters of great concern to civil society.

“This is because it undermines the fundamental values of a functioning democracy and the fundamental human rights of the populace at large.”

Perhaps, the state political elites, many of whom aren’t pure blood Penangites, don’t realise the state is the home of a vibrant civil society, with many active NGOs and activists who are respected influencers of society.

Having walked through the corridors of power and appreciated power’s pleasures, perks and the adulation it brings, maybe it is becoming much harder for people to take criticism. This is, in fact, a reflection of the arrogance of power.

Many have developed thin skin now, with little tolerance for the slightest form of criticism. If anyone even dares raise their voice, an army of cybertroopers, hiding behind anonymity, are unleashed to attack them.

Freedom of speech, it seems, is only the domain of the opposition, with some media (regarded as unfriendly) unceremoniously ridiculed and questioned for their attendance at press conferences.

There are politicians from the Federal Government, too, who are shamelessly cashing in on the flood situation in Penang.

Their relief work must be splashed across news pages, and they have to be seen wading through the flood waters for dramatic purpose. Phua Chu Kang’s iconic yellow boots could likely be the hottest item in the state, as politicians bask in the media’s glare.

Ridiculous remarks have also been passed, one even blaming the state government, saying it has earned the wrath of God.

The rain and floods will go away, eventually. Penangites are stakeholders in the state, and they don’t only make up politicians. The state doesn’t belong to the state government or the opposition.

Caught up in the thick of the action, we seem to have forgotten that the hills are crumbling even without rain. As a stern reminder, just last month, a landslide buried some people in Tanjung Bungah. Investigations on that tragedy are still ongoing.

Basically, the trees – which act as sponge on the hills – are gone. We don’t need to be soil experts to know that.

The grumblings are growing louder because the hills have been progressively going bald in recent years. But the voice of discontent has fallen on deaf ears.

Penangites are alarmed at what they are seeing, and they don’t like it one bit, as much as they understand that land is scarce on the island and property developers need to source some to build homes on.

While it’s easy to hang the Penang state government out to dry for its follies, it’s difficult to ignore how the floods in the east coast states have become annual affairs, too. So, what effective flood mitigation plans have been put in place there?

Kelantan has suffered senselessly, and after more than a year of having been subjected to Mother Nature’s havoc, many victims have yet to recover from their losses. Flooding is obviously nothing exclusive and doesn’t discriminate. Every state has, unfortunately, experienced it in some shape or form.

So, irrespective of location, when life returns to normal, you can expect the politicians to resume their old denying ways.

If there’s a thread that binds our politicians – regardless of which side of the political divide they come from – it is their inability to apologise for their mistakes, despite waxing lyrical about accountability.

Don’t expect them to say sorry, because an apology would be admission of guilt, or worse, a sign of weakness in their realm of inflated egos.

And to put things into perspective, perhaps we could learn a lesson from a quote by prominent American pastor Andy Stanley – “Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.”
On the beat Wong Chun Wai

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.

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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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Hills, landslides, floods and damaged houses: What to do?


Hills, landslides and floods: What to do?

 The mega floods in Penang which followed the landslide tragedy, flash floods in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya, and a shrinking water catchment area in Ulu Muda … it’s time our leaders paid attention to the environment.

THE news has been full of the related issues of hill cutting, logging, landslides and floods. The environmental crisis is back in the public consciousness, and we should seize the moment to find solutions and act on them.

Penang has been the epicentre of this upsurge, for good reasons: the mega flash floods and landslides over the weekend and on Sept 15, and the Oct 21 hill slope collapse in Lembah Permai (Tanjung Bungah) which killed 11 employees at a construction site.

Saturday’s overwhelming floods in Penang, which paralysed the island in so many ways and affected lives, property and activities, was a megashock not only to people in the state but throughout the nation.

But it’s not just a Penang phenomenon.

On Oct 30, flash floods caused massive traffic jams in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya.

Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said the floods were caused not only by heavy rain but by developers of two projects that had blocked drainage.

A stop­work order will be issued if the developers do not take measures specified by City Hall.

Another threat is the logging of valuable water catchment areas.

The Ulu Muda forest in Kedah, which provides much of the water supply to Kedah, Penang and Perlis, is under such a threat as the originally designated Ulu Muda water catchment area has shrunk by 87% from 98,400ha in 1969 to 12,484ha in 2017.

The forest reserve was the most important water catchment area in the Northern Corridor Economic Region but timber production there was growing because Kedah depended on logging as a source of income, said Penang Water Supply Corporation CEO Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa ( The Star, Oct 27).

He suggested that the federal government compensate Kedah for gazetting and preserving Ulu Muda as a water catchment area, noting that the Muda Dam provided 80% of the daily raw water needs for Kedah.

Jaseni issued this stark warning: when logging affects the Muda Dam’s ability to store sufficient water, all three states would face a water crisis in the next dry season.

In Penang, the debate on the floods and the tragic landslide has continued non­stop and moved last week to the State Assembly.

The clearest explanation of the worsening flood situation that I have heard was the presentation by scientist Dr Kam Suan Pheng at the Penang Forum event on Oct 29.

 

A former Universiti Sains Malaysia academic who then worked in international agencies including the International Rice Research Institute, Dr Kam said there were seven main causes of floods in Penang:

  • > Increasingly heavy rainfall; 
  • > Expansion of impermeable surface area;
  • > Eroded soil and landslides increase the sediment load in surface runoffs;
  • > Debris that clogs up waterways; 
  • > Accumulation of surface flow downstream;
  • > Limited capacity to channel off discharge; and
  • > High tides slow down discharge to the sea.

She provided historical and current data to show that flash floods are happening more frequently and with more adverse effects, even with lower rainfall levels. With higher rainfall expected in future, the situation can be expected to significantly worsen.

Dr Kam focused on expansion of impermeable surface area (caused by ill­ planned development and replacing natural ground cover such as hills, fields and trees that act as a water ­absorbing sponge) and soil erosion and landslides (caused by cutting and development in hill areas) as two factors that need special attention.

She quoted Datuk Kam U Tee, the Penang Water Authority general manager (1973~­90), as having correctly explained the Penang floods of October 2008, as follows: the floods were caused by conversion of the Paya Terubong and Bayan Baru valleys into “concrete aprons that do not retain water. The water immediately flows into streams causing flash floods even with moderate rainfall. Because of hill­cutting activities, the flowing water causes erosion of the slopes which carries mud and silt into the river beds”. ( The Star, Oct 24, 2008).

Flood mitigation and flood prevention are two types of actions to tackle the flood problem, said Dr Kam.

Mitigation measures only tackle the symptoms, are costly and need public (state and federal) funds. These include structural measures (upgrading rivers, installing pumps) and non­structural measures (drainage masterplan; flood forecasting and warning systems; public education).

 

Flood prevention should be the priority as that would tackle the root causes, said Dr Kam, who proposed the following actions:

  • > Proper land-­use planning and development control;
  • > Environmental, drainage, transportation and social impact assessments should be made   regarding development plans, beyond individual development projects;
  • > Stringent protection of hill land and slopes;
  • > Stringent monitoring of development projects;
  • >More greening of urban spaces, including a system of parks; and
  • >Protection of riverbanks.

To take these measures, policymakers have to deploy a wide range of policy and legal instruments, and to adopt environmentally sensitive and ecologically friendly structural and non­structural solutions, concluded Dr Kam.

Another speaker, Datuk Agatha Foo, complemented Dr Kam nicely when she elaborated on the various laws, guidelines and plans that can be used to prevent the wrong kinds of development, to control and monitor approved developments and to strictly enforce the laws.

She also spoke on the loopholes and weaknesses of the laws and how to correct them.

Events of the past few weeks alone indicate that the number of environment ­related and human-made problems are bound to increase, probably many times, unless our leaders and policymakers give higher priority to the environment and to well­ planned development.

The paradigm shift should start now, as the alarm bells have already rung.


Source: The Star Malaysia
director@southcentre.org Martin Khor Martin Khor is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.
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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   
Related Link:

Sole DAP rep heckled at Penang woes talks

https://youtu.be/YQM8N0GTuYM

The day the earth moved – Analysis

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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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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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