Tanjung Bungah landslide: Penang commission of inquiry must have broad scope

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The Tanjung Bungah Residents Association released the statement below. Incidentally, the chairperson Meenakshi was one of those detained under the ISA led under the Operation Lalang crackdown exactly 30 years ago today.

The Tanjung Bungah Residents’ Association welcomes the proposal by the Penang state government to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the 21 October landslide at Lengkok Lembah Permai that killed 11 people.

We ask that the commission of inquiry be open to the public to ensure transparency in view of the public interest involved, and that it also allows the full participation and engagement of all stakeholders, including the TBRA.

On the terms of reference of the commission of inquiry, we are glad to note that it includes the project approval process and procedures to see if they were in accordance with guidelines.

We hope that this will also include not only the relevant guidelines but also laws related to the granting of planning and other approvals, as well as monitoring and enforcement aspects with a view to improving them.

This must also include a review of the guidelines on “hill site development 2012”, as well as in ensuring sufficient capacity exists in the relevant authorities to effectively monitor and enforce any conditions imposed.

On the terms of reference which calls for a re-examination of “other matters related to the project including if the project was built on flat land or on a hillslope and to determine if the quarry site was the reason for the failure of the temporary work site slope”, we wish to state that what is also material is an examination of the characteristics and overall conditions at the site and its surroundings, including the state of the site prior to the granting of planning approval and the changes made to the natural terrain.

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Developments on hill land

On a separate note, the TBRA also welcomes the Jagdeep Singh Deo’s statement that the state government will continue to prohibit any new high-rise development on land above 76 metres (250 feet) above sea level.

He was referring to the policy in the Penang Structure Plan on the protection of hill land 76 m above sea level.

In this regard, however, we are perplexed by how the MBPP in 2012 approved the construction of 600 units comprising high-rise apartments and bungalows on hill land covering 80 acres which is above 76 metres above sea level – of which about 43% are on slopes exceeding a gradient of 25 degrees – for the Sunway City project in Sungei Ara, Penang.

In fact, we are shocked to learn that the state authority had in 2011 approved an application by the developer to remove the ‘hill land’ status of the lands under the Land Conservation Act 1960.

The MBPP relied on the 2009 Guidelines for ‘Special Projects’ to allow the Sungei Ara project.

These actions completely defy the state government’s stance that hill land must be protected.

In order to prevent a repeat of this and to respect the policies in the Penang Structure Plan as regards hill land, the state government must now do the following immediately:

  • revise or redefine what are ‘special projects’ in the 2009 guidelines in order to explicitly prohibit any future development on hill land except for essential public amenities.
  • stop approving any further applications for excision of the status of ‘hill lands’ from the Land Conservation Act 1960.
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We also call on the State and the MBPP to also monitor all development on hill lands and hill slopes in Penang and take immediate measures to ensure the safety of those living at the foothills of such developments, as in the case of the PayaTerubong residents in Taman Seri Rambai/Lau Geok Swee.

The TBRA also seeks the clarification of the Penang state government and the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) as to why it is not following the policy in the Penang Structure Plan which designates Tanjung Bungah as being in the ‘secondary corridor’.

The Structure Plan clearly states that in Tanjung Bungah, any housing development cannot exceed 15 units per acre as it is in the ‘secondary corridor’.

Why has the state and the city council not followed this policy which is legally binding? We seek an urgent response in this regard.

Meenakshi Raman is chairperson of TBRA.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. The outcome of a legal challenge to a hill land development in Sungai Ara, Penang, will determine whether the state government is bound to honour the approvals granted by the former administration for development projects in the state.

    Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the Sungai Ara residents’ case, which was pending in the Court of Appeal, was an important indicator of whether the present government had to abide by the decisions of its predecessor.

    The residents of several apartments and neighbourhoods in Sungai Ara have banded together to stop a massive development called Sunway Hills on a hill near their homes.

    The proposed development consist of 600 high-rise apartments and bungalows on hill land covering 32.4ha, with about 43% of the project on slopes over a gradient of 25 degrees.

    The land for the project was reportedly zoned for general and low density housing under the Planning and Development Control Policy Plan (Pelan Dasar) that was approved in 1996 by the State Planning Committee when Barisan Nasional was in the state government.

    But under the Penang Structure Plan 2007, no development is allowed on land over 76m above sea level and on slopes over 25 degrees, unless they are special projects.

  2. Q: Will the Penang commission of inquiry start with the Penang State Planning Committee (SPC), which holds broad power including rezoning of land use which MBPP has no … to object? Enquire every single approval by SPC?
    On one hand, CAT Gomen pledged to support affected residents BUT on another ‘paw’ it has no regards to the environment law.
    Read this comment by Ravinder:
    It was also in 2012 (June) that the Penang State Planning Committee (SPC) approved the re-zoning of three rows of shop houses in Desa Jelita, Permatang Damar Laut, Batu Maung from residential/commercial to INDUSTRIAL. It was done without referring to the Department of Environment, and contrary to the provisions of the Town & Country Planning Act that prohibits industries operating in residential zones. Although the then MPPP first said it would take legal action against the illegal factories, it then gave a strange reason for not being able to do so, i.e it was facing difficulty getting access into the illegal factories to get photographic evidence for a court case. After a long while, it was announced that it had been directed by the SPC to re-zone the shop-houses to INDUSTRIAL and it had to carry out the directive. The re-zoning is ultra vires the environment law and yet it stands as a precedent of disregarding the law! What a quick & easy way to legalise the illegal factories.
    Read more at https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/399979#PwhleH1uCVrGDRIy.99
    Penang gov’t told to declare support for Sg Ara residents

  3. Do not be sidetracked by this Penang landslide tragedy.
    Focus on supporting Harapan to win the coming General Election.
    Else BN for the next 5 years is a bigger tragedy for all of us.

  4. Tanjung Bungah assemblyperson Teh Yee Cheu said he will quit DAP when the Penang state assembly is dissolved.

    He could then join PFP or PCM, then contest again at Tanjung Bungah at GE14.

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