Last night while taking the ferry from the mainland to Penang Island, I gazed at Penang Hill. Whereas in the past, the lights at the summit of Bukit Bendera (Flagstaff Hill) would twinkle in the clear night sky, this time other specks of light in the middle of the hill were piercing through the black shroud enveloping the hill after sunset – evidence of more hill-slope development or clearing.
At this rate, Penang Hill will soon be transformed into a giant Christmas tree rising from the centre of a fairyland island surrounded by smaller Christmas trees (highrise condos for the wealthy at the sea front, built on reclaimed land). Do we want this sort of hill-clearing and hill-cutting in Penang? Surely, these bald patches are visible from Komtar.
So it is timely that two dozen Penang-based residents associations and civil society groups have signed an open letter to the Yang Di-Pertua of the Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang expressing concern about the degradation of hills in the state.
Call for public forum on the hills of Penang
Dear Yang Di-Pertua Dato’ Patahiyah bt Ismail
Penang is famed for its hills, beaches (sadly no longer clean) and heritage. Very few places in Malaysia are blessed with this combination of assets. But alas, we residents of Penang are very concerned that our hills are being desecrated right in front of our eyes.
Bald patches are appearing all over the state – from the hills on the mainland to Bukit Relau (the most notorious), Balik Pulau and Tanjung Bungah on the island (see Anil Netto’s blog posts).
The forests and hills of Penang, besides providing a soothing landscape, cool the morning air that flows down the slopes and ventilates our city. All these are threatened by the wanton clearing of our hills by housing developers and farmers, some done illegally.
We support the Council’s recent effort to strengthen its geo-technical division. We call upon the Council to jointly organise a public forum to inform the public what steps are being taken to address this issue.
Some questions the public would like clarified are:
- Is there an inventory of all the hill sites on the mainland and island that have or are being deforested?
- What are the present procedures to monitor such clearings?
- How can we be more proactive rather than reactive in preventing illegal clearing?
- What happened to the State’s policies and guidelines on regulating development on hills above 250 feet or slopes above 25 degree?
- Please provide an inventory of the legal cases brought against illegal clearing.
- Can the Council provide an updated inventory of all hill slope development that has been approved?
- In prosecuting owners who have illegally cleared hill land, why has the Council not sought for a more effective and deterrent penalty that includes imprisonment; this can be done by piercing the corporate veil and going after directors who are responsible for such violations?
We, the undersigned organisations, would like the Council and the State to hold a public forum, to include participants from civil society, to address these urgent issues. We are reminded of these words of wisdom.
Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned; Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten – American Indian Proverb.
We look forward to your early reply to any or all of the NGOs listed below.
- Citizens for Public Transport Coalition (Cepat)
- Consumers Association of Penang (CAP)
- Friends of Botanic Gardens
- Gold Coast Management Corporation
- Green Crusaders
- Malaysian Nature Society (MNS)
- Penang Consumers Protection Association
- Penang Forum Steering Committee
- Penang Heritage Trust (PHT)
- Persatuan Sukan & Rekreasi OKU, Pulau Pinang (Pesron)
- Pesticide Action Network Asia & Pacific
- Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM)
- Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram)
- Womens Centre for Change (WCC)
- Desaria Residents Association
- Elit Heights Residents Association
- Elit Avenue Residents Association
- Krystal Point Residents Association
- Raintree Garden A & B
- Regency Condominiums
- Springfield Condominiums
- Sunrise Condominiums
- Sri Merpati Apartments
- Tanjong Bunga Residents Association (TBRA)