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."

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