Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tanjong Bunga's SORE THUMB, revisited

From my window, I can monitor “ progress” on the Sore Thumb. While there were bulldozers at work three months ago, there has not been any discernible activity for at least the last month.  One wonders why? Out of concern for public objection? Certainly not.  Out of fear of reprisal from the State government? Impossible. Has a STOP WORK order finally been issued? Unlikely.

To backtrack a little.  The area dubbed the Sore Thumb is located on the beach in Tanjong Bunga. It started a long time ago, as of 2002 when hundreds of truckloads of rocks, soil and discarded building materials were dumped into the sea, creating a humpbacked jetty. In fact it was an ILLEGAL reclamation of the sea in front of the Copthorne Hotel and just next to Penang Swimming Club. By law, all reclamations belong to the government.
TBRA led a public outcry, when it appeared that this jetty might be privatized. The then Tanjong Country Club had submitted plans for a marina. TBRA objected to these plans and asked the government to make the Thumb into a public park.  The population of Tanjong Bunga has been increasing and space for recreation has been decreasing. Much of the access to the beach along Tanjong Bunga road has become inaccessible to the public. For a good walk or jog, residents have to drive to the Botanical Gardens which does not help the traffic congestion.
When the Cove was built, the 4 huge towers became known as Tanjong Bunga’s Four Sore Fingers and with the Sore Thumb that made a hand saying: STOP!
Coastal Public Park Proclaimed
In 2010, TBRA organized a very well attended “tea-party” where over a hundred residents claimed the Thumb as a public park. The huge gate that illegally blocked access to State land was opened and the residents proudly marched to the Thumb. Our Tanjong Bunga ADUN led the march. TBRA chairman proclaimed the Coastal Park.

Meanwhile, the building plans for the marina which had been approved, lapsed and thus the approval also timed out. There was hope. Trees started growing on the Sore Thumb. Twice, the State Govt jointly with TBRA, Dalat School and JKT organized huge Gotong Royongs to clean the beach and make the Park more accessible. But, the govt did not send in bulldozers to level the Thumb into a real park…

Tanjong Bunga has become the unwilling darling of the developers in the past 5 years.  Luxury high-rises hide the sea, and spoil the view for all except a few rich who can afford these multi-million dollar condos (and actually live there instead of just purchasing for investment). Some of these developers even advertise a private beach. One of them who did was the Tanjong One, the same company that, under a different name, had applied for a permit to build the marina. Somehow, its application for 2 huge 39 story towers, right next to the Cove was approved and the one closest to the sea was rapidly finished and said to be sold out. The second one, near the road rose quickly but… it has now faltered. Lack of money, it is rumored.

So now there is a small forest of 6 extremely high buildings hiding the Sore Thumb, alias Coastal Park.
Private bulldozers have been digging into the Sore Thumb, beyond the permissible area.  There is a village of migrant workers just at the edge. The 'illegal' Sore Thumb itself still does not have a lot number. That may be better as it would make it 'legal' in a sense and easier to privatize.

The small river that lies next to the Sore Thumb has been canalized, diverted and covered up by the Tanjong One developer. This is ILLEGAL. The Town and Country Planning Act has a River Enactment Section (1976), which requires a license for altering the natural flow of any river.  Did the developer apply for said license? We doubt it.  This river is important, as it brings the run off from Pearl Hill to the sea.  If obstructed, it could overflow onto the Tanjong Bunga road during the rainy season.  If this happens, who do we blame? The developer? MPPP? Chances are, fingers will be pointed at everyone, but it's the public who will bear the burden and the inconvenience.

The land on both sides of the river belongs to the State. The developer claims that he has been given permission to build a road on that public land.  The main purpose is to access its beach side tower block. However, according to Mr. Phee Boon Poh, some time back, no permission has been given to use state land. He said “ANY USAGE IS TRESPASSING”. 
Kudos also to PSC members, some of whom are residents of Tanjong Bunga, who unanimously voted against building the road. But now the road is there and has an official green road sign: Tingkat Laut 1 (see pix) so…. somewhere along the line, somebody in MPPP gave permission ! Who that?
What are our major concerns?
That the developer will continue to use public land for private use. Just like the road, the Sore Thumb may gradually be expropriated and, instead of it becoming a public park, it will end up with some kind of
new marina, a hotel and other buildings, marring even more of Tanjong Bunga’s seashore.

TBRA has complained umpteen times to MPPP and the Chief Minister about obvious underhand activities. The complaints have been acknowledged, in writing and MPPP has promised to 'monitor' the situation. But like so many promises, these have yet to be fulfilled !!
I will keep on doing real “monitoring” from my window.
Malicca Ratne
for TBRA

Friday, August 08, 2014

Temple Construction at Chee Seng Gardens, Tg. Bunga, Penang


Chee Seng Gardens was established since the mid-1960s. There were approximately 80 semi-detached houses. There was open access to the surrounding areas made up of low hills. This entire surrounding area has been subsequently built over with numerous high rise apartments. The open space(s) have thus been replaced with concrete and steel. Since grown with the addition of 2 and 3 storey houses.
To the best of our knowledge there is only one (1) open public area of land measuring approximately 8,000sf.

The Present Scenario

There was an unwelcome surprise recently to see an approved development for a Temple a on a portion to the small open space. Needless to say, the space will spill over beyond the temple boundary. The site is right at the entrance into the Chee Seng Garden area.This is located at the road junction of Jalan Chan SiewTeong and Jalan Chee Seng 10.

We raised the following issues:-
  1. Why was there no prior notice of the intended construction given to residents in and around the said area as per City Council guidelines?
  2. FYI there was an enquiry by the residents dated 26 February 2014 when there appeared to be some construction works to come. ( Appendix 1 ) The response from
MPPP dated 3 March 2014 (Aduan 02783/02/14) that the matter was being
investigated. (Appendix 2 )
  1. As a consequence of the above mentioned response from MPPP all materials and enclosure were completely removed.On 3March 2014, We extended our thanks to
the prompt reply and action ( Appendix 3 )
  1. In the following three (3) weeks from 3rd March the exact same area was again boarded up and construction equipment and materials moved in. This time an official notice board was erected indicating approval of the construction for the Temple.
  2. On 29 April 2014another letter was sent querying the approval. ( Appendix 4 )
A follow up letter was sent on 8 May 2014. (Appendix 5 ) As there was no reply,
another follow up was sent on
16 May 2014 asking the same question. (Appendix 6)
  1. 16th April 2014, An email, which was a copy of the MPPP President to a Mr Yew
Tung Seang of MPPP instructing follow up action be taken and a reply to be sent, was
despatched (Appendix 7)
  1. On 17 May 2014 an email from the Public Relations Section of MPPP despatched by
Puan Siti Hapizah was received informing that the project had been approve by
MPPP.(Appendix 8 )
  1. On 19 May 2014a protest letter was sent to MPPP ( Attn Officers in Charge, MPPP).
( Appendix 9 )
  1. On 20 May 2014a hard copy letter from a Tan Lin Hai MPPP was received
informing that the plans for a 3 storey temple on Lot 4569 DTL TB did receive
developmentbuilding plans and duly approved by MPPP.( Appendix 10 )
  1. There has been no further correspondence since.

What Next?

All of the above has now left a very bad feeling of a total let down in transparency and proper accountability on the part of local governance.Why?
Why is there this urgency to build another temple in the Tg Bunga area when, to date there already exist more than 12in the vincinity of Tg Bunga.

Why is there total disregard for building and zoning guidelines in which temples or other places of worship have pre-designated areas allotted. Chee Seng Gardens is a quaint, quiet and off-the –main road infrastructure. Why the need for a templehere. To the best of our knowledge there has not been any request by residentsfor a temple in Chee Seng Gardens.

In fact, the proposed site of the new temple flies against logic when there is an existing large temple on the opposite hillock which is a mere 100m away.

There is a very large housing development about to expand further in the neighbouring area of the Tanjong Bunga market. Is this temple move helping to make space for that private development? The coincidence is telling. Who is gaining? The rakjat, as always, are losing.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Gotong Royong to clean up public beach at Copthorne Hotel Tanjung Bungah

URGENT  exercise - discover- come !
Saturday morning, 1 December 2012 at 8 am
Please come and support a Gotong Royong on the beach below the Copthorne Hotel and the Cove (public access via stairs in between these two buildings) to assert the public nature of the beach as well as the 'Sore Thumb' which will remain “SORE” until it is gazetted as:
Tanjong Bunga Coastal Park.
MPPP & TBRA organise this clean-up on Saturday morning,
1 December 2012 at 8 am
Refreshments will be provided - courtesy Copthorne Hotel
Pressure on State Government and MPPP must continue in order to safeguard the Tanjong Bunga Coastal Park. This reclaimed land has still not been gazetted to ensure it is reserved for public use. There are rumours galore that Tanjong 1 (that huge new towerblock right on the sea) is still eyeing the reclamation to develop it for private use.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

New Recreational Parks

A number of new recreational parks for the public have been created recently by developers in the Seri Tanjung Pinang and Lembah Permai area. These parks are designed by professional landscape designers. However we hope that the public who use these parks do not litter the grounds or vandalise the play equipment.

Sadly, there are many squatters and illegal construction on the beach front next to the park. Yes these people can enjoy their seafront villas free on state land!

New recreational park just behind Tesco in Tanjung Tokong is maintained by the developers E&O Development.

A walkway is being built leading from the park to the beach. Note the many illegal houses that have sprung up on the beach.

More illegal (?) constructions coming up on the beach front of Tanjung Tokong

Ideal for Picnics

This is an extract from Star Metro North of November 1, 2012.

There is a new 1.76ha park in Tanjung Tokong just right for families. UNKNOWN to many people, there is a new recreational spot in Penang where families can spend quality time outdoors.
Fun playground: Children can have watery fun with water spraying out from these buckets at the Seri Tanjung Pinang public recreational park in Penang.
The 1.76ha Seri Tanjung Pinang public recreational park in Tanjung Tokong on the island’s north coast was completed a few months ago but had not been attracting big crowds yet as it is still largely unknown.
Its facilities include a jogging and cycling track, a children’s playground and toilets. The sprawling grounds are also ideal for picnics.
The park, which is developed by Eastern & Oriental (E&O) Bhd as a corporate social responsibility project, is located within the Seri Tanjung Pinang housing and commercial area which is developed by the company. It is behind the Tesco Hypermarket there.
E&O general manager for construction management Zawawi Yusop said the park is open to group activities but organisations and schools have to first seek permission from the company by calling 04-8913311.
“There are no rental charges but they are refrained from holding any political or religious activities there,” he said after accompanying Penang Local Government andd Traffic Management Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow on a visit to the park recently.
The park, which is open from 7am to 7pm daily, is also the starting point of the 1.8km promenade which connects it to the Straits Quay commercial retail outlet.
Chow said the opening of the new park would encourage more people to come outdoors to enjoy nature.
“With a huge recreational park like this, nearby kindergartens and schools can organise outdoor activities here for their students.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Higher Density only for Transit Oriented Developments(TODs)?

Penang Forum had a meeting with the MPPP President(YDP) recently on 18 October 2012. This update is from former Municipal Councillor Lim Kah Cheng. On the issue of the density of 87 units per acre, the YDP confirmed that MPPP has put on hold applications for density of 87 units which have not yet been approved. Rationale: the draft local plan  had recommended that the 87 units be only for those (developments) along transit nodes and since there is uncertainty as to where  the transit nodes are and that the recommended monorail and PORR in the draft local plan are not happening, the higher density of 87 units should be put on hold. Density should be considered together with the transport master plan. 

(Realistically, we are not out of the woods yet because the developers are lobbying members of the state govt to pressurize MPPP to reverse this decision. We members of the public must step up the pressure because MPPP's recommendation to SPC is pending a final decision.)

On the complaints to MPPP of the rivers in Lembah Permai and the one next to 1 tanjung/Penang Swimming Club being filled up by developers,  Dato YDP promised to call for a meeting with JPS and JKR and DO and PForum reps to resolve these issues. She also asked her engineering dept head to monitor the situations at those 2 places.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Take the polluters to task !


Press conference: Wed. 10 Oct. 11 am Copthorne Beach

by YB Teh and TBRA (Tanjong Bunga Residents’ Association)

The Tanjung Bunga Residents’ Association together with YB Teh, ADUN for Tanjong Bunga called for a Press conference to highlight the pollution at the Tanjung 1 project, a huge high rise condominium development between the Cove and the Penang Swimming Club.

The Association was represented by its Chairman, Dato Dr Leong Yueh Kwong, while Tanjung Bunga’s State Assemblyman, YB Teh Yee Cheu, chaired the Press Conference.

TBRA said that the many of the massive development along Penang’s beaches are on ecologically sensitive areas without any close supervision and monitoring by the Department of Environment and the local authorities and they are causing irreparable environmental damage to the coastal areas through soil erosion and water pollution from the runoff..

“No-where is it more clear than at the Tanjong 1 tower being built at the edge of the sea”, said TBRA’s Chairman Dr Leong Yueh Kwong. “In their rush to complete the condominiums, the developers are ignoring the environmental impacts of their construction. Their huge posters on the main road show the unspoilt, pristine beach in order to promote sale of the multi-million ringgit apartments. Down on the beach, it is a different story: mud turns the sea orange as the rain washes the earth downhill whenever there is a heavy downpour which is very frequent at this time of the year”. Tanjong 1 has been encroaching on public land by bulldozing rocks and soil beyond their limit.

The Association is concerned that the authorities seem unwilling or unable to stop the pollution of the beaches and coastal waters, despite some earlier efforts to help clean up the beaches. In March 2012, MPPP joined the residents in Tanjung Bunga for a massive Gotong Royong. More than 200 people helped to clean up the beach and also prepared a path for public access to the proposed Tanjong Bunga Coastal Park. This month all of that was forgotten as the private developers went their way to expedite their construction regardless of environmental concerns.

“Tanjong 1 brazenly removed all the fencing on the seaside and is bulldozing excess earth and rocks onto the public beach and park area. MPPP should be protecting the beach by regularly overseeing the impact of construction works,” said YB Teh.

TBRA is once again asking for the immediate gazetting of the Coastal Park which has been promised for years. This request has been made many times over the past four years but nothing has been done. Letters to the Chief Minister have gone unanswered. “The people of Tanjong Bunga are tired of waiting patiently and politely. They want a public recreation area. They want to save the Coastal Park now. They want clean seas and public beaches. This is part of State Government often trumpeted policy of a cleaner and greener Penang which we all support. They don’t want the government to allow private developers to snatch the coastal park away under one pretext or other. That would be one scandal too many,” said Dr Leong.

Erosion from Tanjong 1 construction site muddies the sea

Monday, July 02, 2012

Update for TBRA – 1 July 2012

Things are happening in Penang. Change is in the air. One of our members recently suggested a rate-payers strike to show discontent with the way MPPP listens more to developers than to local residents. And there is more, much more!
Housing.  A report by the Consumers’ Association of Penang: “CAP: Only the rich can afford Penang homes” (Star, 6 June) led to many other articles debating whether there was shortage of housing or not? There are so many un-occupied units. Do foreigners buy condo’s to live or speculate? Do developers have no choice but to build on hillsides because there is a shortage of land and housing on Penang Island or are they only building there to sell to speculators?
The only elected (by NGOs) MPPP Council member spoke on 25 June to the full Council meeting about protests by a dozen or so residents' associations, including Sungai Ara, Lemba Permai, Pulau Tikus, etc. He said this was a signal to MPPP that something is NOT right; that there is a gap between planning and people. While developers have easy access to city planners, people do not. Traffic or environmental impact studies must be done by independent consultants and not depend on reports provided by developers (this affects density – height control- hillslope projects, etc.). For his full speech, check: ([ParticipantsofPenangForum] Read the Address to the Full Council Meeting of MPPP or get it on Aliran’s website: People, Planning and Development, by Dr Lim Mah Hui).
Our Tanjong Bunga ADUN took members of the press to witness for themselves the devastation caused by hillslope building (article and pictures in NST). Because of his persistent concern over ecology, he is in trouble with his own ruling party. Many in TBRA venture that if that party wants to get TB votes, it had better back ADUN Teh, not stop him from talking to the press. If he is blocked from standing, the whole township may abandon the State government in power.
Sore Thumb is sore again. After all the excitement and (hard work) of the gotong royong, nothing has happened, other than the vegetation closing in again. The “Coastal Park” still has no lot number and faces an uncertain future, while the latest high-rise right on the beach, Tanjong 1, is towering over it with almost half of its 39 storeys completed. The Cove residents have mobilized some resources to keep the beach clean but they are currently also allowing Tanjong 1 to spill its excess earth onto the beach area... The beach is public and should not be used by a private developer. TBRA is waiting for MPPP to level the outer part of the Thumb so that residents can proceed with another gotong royong and start using their “Coastal Park”.
Our Lemba Permai residents have filed 2 appeals against the highrises planned in their low-rise neighbourhood but sofar the Appeals Board has not set any date for review of the development. While the One-Stop-Centres (OSC) can make fast and final decisions (nearly always benefiting developers), residents have to follow a slow and onerous path to even be heard.
All is waiting for the elections, even the long overdue Local Plan has to sit down and wait. (Duduk but no Bersih?) TBRA calls on the local government to listen to the voters and ACT before the elections. And apply CAT…
Closer to home: TBRA has a new Chairperson. On 11 June, the TBRA Committee appointed Dato Leong Yueh Kwong to take over from George Aeria who wanted to step down after 3 years successfully leading our Association into State-wide recognition. In a 7 June interview with the Star, Dato Leong called for a moratorium on hillslope projects until the MPPP guidelines for approval have been revised.
STOP PRESS.  On 1 July, both George and Leong were quoted extensively in a full page illustrated article in the Star which featured YB Teh and most of TBRA’s grievances. It was very well written and must have hit a raw nerve as the CM himself replied that very same Sunday afternoon. So check them out and see who YOU believe. (http://www.tanjongbunga.blogspot.com)

Car stickers: There are still some colourful TBRA stickers (see above), available to paid-up members who want to show their support for the Association. Pay up your miserly RM12/yr or become a life member. Send us an email and a volunteer will do a home delivery. Better than pizza.Best wishes from TBRA

Tanjong Bunga Residents Association "making our town better together

Uphill battle for residents

Penang politicians say that the hills are alive with the sound of music but angry residents in Tanjung Bungah think the hills are dying and their once serene suburb has become unlivable.

By Joceline Tan  Sunday July 1, 2012 http://thestar.com.my/columnists/story.asp?file=/2012/7/1/columnists/joceline/11553488&sec=joceline
(Also see a quick, same-day, reply from the Penang Chief Minister  http://limguaneng.com/index.php/2012/07/01/hill-development-projects-putting-the-record-straight-from-stars-dishonest-efforts-to-rewrite-history-encn/)

THE rugged-looking Teh Yee Cheu, assemblyman for Tanjung Bungah, used to be dubbed the “bicycle YB” because he had once cycled to a Penang Legislative Assembly sitting. His DAP bosses did not quite approve of it but he received a lot of publicity from the media and went from an unknown to being noticed.
But these days, Teh’s name is more synonymous with the “dying hills” in his constituency. The hills of Tanjung Bungah have become a prickly issue in Penang politics and Teh is feeling the heat.

The DAP politician has been under immense pressure from his constituents to act on their complaints about the string of development projects coming up in Tanjung Bungah’s hilly terrain. Hillslope development and its environmental costs have become the No. 1 issue in this upmarket coastal strip.
Stolen charm: The once scenic coastline of Tanjung Bungah now resembles a concrete fortress and the fear is that things will get worse because there are more projects in the pipeline.
Tanjung Bungah, for those who are not from Penang, is an affluent residential belt on the island’s northeast. It occupies a narrow stretch of land with the hills on one side and the sea on the other. It is a much sought-after location and as land grew more scarce, the trend has been towards building high-rise and high-end apartments on hill slopes.

That made the residents see red and brought them together under the Tanjung Bungah Residents Association (TBRA) in 2006. It was their way of protesting against what they called “development without planning”.
“No need for a helicopter, just drive along the coastal road to Batu Ferringhi and you’ll see what we’re talking about,” said TBRA chairman Dr Leong Yueh Kwong.

George Aeria, who had chaired the association until recently, was more explicit: “We have a useless government, they’re quite stupid. We don’t care whether it’s DAP, Gerakan or Umno. You’ve got to run the State with the people’s interest in mind.”

Aeria sounds totally fed-up and who can blame him. Two years ago, his family home in the foothills of Tanjung Bungah was flooded for the first time ever because of an adjacent hillslope project.

The TBRA is quite a fierce group. They comprise the middleclass and professionals who are articulate, and know their rights and how to use the media. They have held several protests against the state of affairs. They are an angry lot going by some of their protest placards which have included stuff like: “Don’t repeat Highland Towers tragedy,” “We voted for change, not for the same,” and “Listen to the rakyat or regret in 13th GE.”
Outbreak of protests.
People in the Penang Govern­ment were unhappy with the “The Dying Hills” headline in The Star, and accused the paper of “media lynching”. But the people of Tanjung Bungah say it is spot on because their once serene suburb is becoming unlivable. Their problems are not just the threat of landslides, floods and erosion. The new schemes have generated a crazy traffic situation on roads that were not meant for such a dense population.

“In a few years’ time, we may not be able to go in or out of Tanjung Bungah,” said Dr Leong, who is a former university professor.

A few weeks after the report by The Star, the State bulletin Mutiara, which made news for carrying 51 pictures of the Chief Minister in a single issue, countered with its own headline claiming that, “The hills are alive with the sound of music.”

It is strange the State Govern­ment can hear music coming from the hills but cannot hear the woes of Tanjung Bungah folk.

But the Tanjung Bungah assemblyman appears to have broken ranks with his party’s neither-here-nor-there position on the issue. Teh has asked the public to say it “loud and clear” if they are against hillslope development.

Teh, whose Facebook photo shows him thigh-deep in mud planting mangrove saplings, also dropped a bombshell; he said he had learnt that there are some 15 new applications to build on the hill slopes and seafront of Tanjung Bungah.
Teh: Taken a big gamble by breaking ranks with his party.
He is under pressure from his party, which does not want to offend the powerful developer lobby in Penang. Many see him as a chess piece in the tussle of wills between the people and the powers-that-be.

His boss Lim Guan Eng is said to be very annoyed with him. The DAP elected representatives have a pow-wow every Friday with the Chief Minister. At a meeting earlier last month, Teh was slapped with a gag order and told to do damage control on his “loud and clear” remarks. Teh kept mum throughout the meeting and skipped the following week’s meeting.

It is apparent he has decided to put his constituents’ interest above that of his party bosses. He attends TBRA meetings, joins them at protests and despite coming across as rather clueless on a lot of issues, he has won praise from the residents.

Teh’s attitude has been a stark contrast to Bukit Bendera MP Liew Chin Tong whom residents say has not come out for them on the issue. Tanjung Bungah and three other state seats fall under the Bukit Bendera parliamentary constituency and the cerebral and Canberra-educated Liew would have been well-suited to bring the TBRA’s complaints to the higher authorities and help find a solution.

Deaf and dumb stand

But, according to those in the TBRA, the DAP politician has adopted a “deaf and dumb” stand on their problems. Yet, he has loads of opinions on everything else – from the Lynas plant in Pahang to Myanmar politics and the Arab Spring.
“He should also look after his own backyard,” said a journalist from a Chinese newspaper in Penang.

He cannot claim the hill issue is outside his purview as an MP. DAP MP for Jelutong Jeff Ooi had defied his bosses and stuck his neck out for his constituents on low-cost housing in his area.
Aeria: No action from authorities on hillslope development.
At the height of the issue, Liew was seen up on Penang Hill with his Chief Minister at the launch of some hilltop cafe. Liew is clearly trying to stay in the good books of his DAP boss and he probably figures he can hold on to Bukit Bendera without the support of the Tanjung Bungah people.

Teh, on his part, is struggling to cope and had to engage a Chinese newspaper journalist to help him handle the media. Teh, who hails from Kedah, has been in Penang DAP for more than 20 years and probably feels a greater commitment to the State and the people’s problems.

“We are not political and we are not against development. But we are against bad development taking place without the necessary infrastructure,” said Dr Leong.
The residents are disappointed that the State planning authorities have been unable to come up with a suitable policy for Tanjung Bungah. A big part of the problem has to do with the ambiguity over the development zoning of Tanjung Bungah.

According to Aeria, Tanjung Bungah had actually been listed as a secondary zone in the Penang Structure Plan, as the policy plan for the State is known. But a map in the same report identified it as a primary zone. A primary zone is subjected to a higher development density than a secondary zone. The TBRA wants Tanjung Bungah to be classified as a secondary zone so that the development pressure will be reduced.

The TBRA took the matter to court but the judge dismissed the case on grounds that the deadline for the application had expired.

The demands made by NGOs like Sahabat Alam Malaysia and the Malaysian Nature Society have been more drastic. They want all hill projects halted and a freeze on approved projects until the guidelines for hill development are revised.

“The issue of overdevelopment is not only in Tanjung Bungah. It is quite widespread, from seaside to hillside, from the kampung to the city. But the pressure has been greatest on the island where there is limited land but everyone wants a house here. The current State Government is pro-developer, no doubt about that. DAP can blame the last Government for many problems but they cannot deny they are good friends with the developers. People have eyes, you know,” said a Penang lawyer.
Liew: Bukit Bendera MP seen as “deaf and dumb” on issue.
The standard tune from the State Government is that it has not approved any projects above 76m since 2008 and the problematic projects were approved by the previous administration.

But as Tanjung Bungah advocates have pointed out, many of the projects causing grief to people are hillslope projects below 76m. They say it is time to revamp the building regulations if even projects on slopes below 76m are causing problems. They want a moratorium on development in Tanjung Bungah until a clear-cut zoning policy is drawn up.

They are also stunned to hear that there are 15 new applications for projects on Tanjung Bungah’s hill slopes and seafront as revealed by their assemblyman. They want the State to be transparent about the new schemes.

As Penang Island municipal councillor Dr Lim Mah Hui said earlier this week, public officials and politicians must realise that the middle class in Penang are voicing their concern and anger in public protests because they feel that something is not right with the development taking place.

The outspoken Mah Hui was placed under a gag order after the “dying hills” issue erupted. The moment the gag was lifted on Monday, he made an enlightening speech before a full council which has been making the rounds among concerned citizens.

Mah Hui has been very concerned about the State Government’s fascination for mega-projects such as the undersea tunnel and the sPICE convention centre. He said that the larger community must be consulted on mega schemes.

His speech was a subtle warning of how ambitious projects like the Penang Global City Centre in 2008 came up against massive opposition from the people. The ill-conceived project was said to have contributed to the Barisan’s defeat in Penang. And 18 years before that, a scheme to put a theme park on Penang Hill ended the political career of the late Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu.
Tanjung Bungah’s vocal middle class played their part in ushering the Pakatan Rakyat Government in 2008. They had high expectations of the new Government and are disappointed that it is not much different from the one they voted out.

“We had expected them to champion our cause but they are not as responsive as we would have liked. We were in a tunnel with the last Government and there is still no light at the end of the tunnel under the present Government,” said Aeria.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Hill 'killed' by development


SHOCKING: DAP assemblyman takes reporters to see construction site above the 75m safety zone


GEORGE TOWN: THE sight at the top of a hill just behind the wet market at Mount Erskine is shocking to say the least.

Gone are the trees and the highest point has been levelled. The hilltop is littered with granite rock which was blasted and dug out of the ground in preparation for the construction of posh apartments and villas.

The project was abandoned in the early 1990s but was revived two years ago with work now in full swing. Tanjung Bungah assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu took the New Straits Times to see how the hill "was being killed" with little or no monitoring of what was going on.

The first-term DAP assemblyman admitted that he might be getting into trouble with his party for highlighting the matter but stressed he was doing it purely out of concern for the kind of destructive development happening all over the island.

Teh said developers were mainly targeting the scenic north-eastern coast from Tanjung Bungah to Batu Ferringhi and on to Teluk Bahang and Balik Pulau.
He lamented that little was being done by the local authorities to haul up developers who were ignoring basic safety measures.

"Just look at this hill. The whole hilltop has been cleared but there is no proper drainage for rainwater to flow down.

"It is also puzzling why the developer has piled all the granite at the top of the hill. It is a disaster waiting to happen," he said, adding the clearing at the hilltop was most definitely above the 75m mark where no development is allowed.
Asked if he had brought the matter up with the local authorities, Teh said he had questioned the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) about the project last year.

"I asked them how it was possible for the project to have been approved. All I got was a vague verbal answer."

He wants the MPPP to be reformed, with a new Geotechnical Department to ensure greater transparency and accountability concerning hillslope projects.
Teh also criticised developers for rushing to get projects off the ground over the last few years before the local structure plan is gazetted. He said developers were trying to reap maximum profits out of the land they have, especially on hillslopes.

On whether the many "stop work" orders by the local authorities were enough to keep developers in check, Teh said: "If you use 'stop work' orders too often, they will have no meaning. We need stricter measures like higher fines, charging the errant developers or blacklisting them.

"The 'stop work' orders are meaningless. There are countless examples of how these orders do not work."

Asked if Penang hills were dying from all the development, Teh said: "The hills are not dying, but people are killing them. I want journalists to see the destruction for themselves. I believe in press freedom and I will be happy if the truth is told."

On the blame game being played out, with Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng constantly pointing fingers at the previous administration for the mess caused by hillslope development, Teh said the best thing for everyone was find a solution now.

He said landowners and developers should not be given a free hand to build whatever they wanted, especially on high and eco-sensitive areas.

"I have met two retired Hong Kong officers from a special committee set up there to monitor hill slope development after frequent landslides, now living here under the Malaysia My Second Home programme.

"They say the current situation here is very worrying. They said it looks like Hong Kong in the 1970s."