So another landslide again in Penang.. this time about a dozen dead or missing at a construction site for the elevated Paya Terubong “paired road”.
The tragedy today comes almost a year to day after the 21 October 2018 landslide at the Granito housing construction site in Tanjung Bungah, which took 11 lives, mostly migrants workers.
It also comes just over a week after 14 large concrete beams fell down a slope in Jalan Tun Sardon nearby during the construction of the Jalan Bukit Kukus alternative road. A crane operator had allegedly accidentally knocked down one of the beams, triggering a domino effect.
In today’s disaster, the dead and the missing are likely to be migrant workers again. Are their lives so easily expendable in our constructions and road-building frenzy?
The landslide at around 2pm took place after a few hours of drizzling this morning. Mind you, it was not even a storm. I dread to think what would happen the next time it pours buckets.
No one can say the state was not warned about the risks of building highways (and highrise buildings elsewhere) along the environmentally sensitive landslide-prone hillslopes of Penang. Penang Hills Watch had highlighted what was going on in the area.
Meanwhile, over 17,000 Penangites in an online petition have opposed the construction of the RM8bn 19.5kn Pan Island Link highway, which involves constructing elevated highways and drilling and blasting tunnels through the hills of Penang. Will this mega project and other “paired roads” be steamrolled through as well, despite the obvious environmental risks involved?
Will those who came up with the bright idea for more highways and “paired roads” on our hillslopes take responsibility for this disaster? Or will it once again be labelled a construction work-site mishap to be deliberated at length by another inquiry?
As we mourn the latest loss of lives, perhaps it is time to reflect: when will we ever learn not to mess with Nature? What will it take for us to change course and adopt an environmentally friendlier approach that emphasises sustainable mobility?