Penang Hill turning into a Christmas tree; 24 NGOs say no more botak hills


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.

  1. Aliran
  2. Citizens for Public Transport Coalition (Cepat)
  3. Consumers Association of Penang (CAP)
  4. Friends of Botanic Gardens
  5. Gold Coast Management Corporation
  6. Green Crusaders
  7. Malaysian Nature Society (MNS)
  8. Penang Consumers Protection Association
  9. Penang Forum Steering Committee
  10. Penang Heritage Trust (PHT)
  11. Persatuan Sukan & Rekreasi OKU, Pulau Pinang (Pesron)
  12. Pesticide Action Network Asia & Pacific
  13. Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM)
  14. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram)
  15. Womens Centre for Change (WCC)
  16. Desaria Residents Association
  17. Elit Heights Residents Association
  18. Elit Avenue Residents Association
  19. Krystal Point Residents Association
  20. Raintree Garden A & B
  21. Regency Condominiums
  22. Springfield Condominiums
  23. Sunrise Condominiums
  24. Sri Merpati Apartments
  25. Tanjong Bunga Residents Association (TBRA)
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gk ong

George Town will have an additional 2,093 units of apartments priced up to RM400,000 in four years now that work to build “The Rise”, Penang’s affordable housing scheme on Jalan SP Chelliah, has started. Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the project, with a gross development value of RM600 million, was scheduled for completion in November 2019. The Rise will consist of 770 units of 700 sq ft low-medium-cost apartments priced at RM72,500 each; 883 units of 800 sq ft apartments priced at RM200,000 each; 165 units of 900 sq ft apartments priced at RM300,000 each; and 275 units of… Read more »


The World’s Future MEGAPROJECTS (2015-2030’s)

A documentary on the ten most ambitious mega-projects currently under development around the world, featuring: Dubai World Central Airport (United Arab Emirates); Songdo International Business District (South Korea); Tokyo-Osaka Maglev Train (Japan); Masdar City (United Arab Emirates); The Grand Canal (Nicaragua); National Trunk Highway System (China); International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor [ITER] – Fusion (France); World’s Tallest Building (Azerbaijan); Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (India); King Abdullah Economic City (Saudi Arabia).

Fortunately or unfortunately, Bolehland is not in the list.

LGE tak boleh

Lim Guan Eng launched the EM Mud Balls at Gurney Drive in Aug 2009. But later the development of STP2 was approved by the state led by DAP. And now, the state government is talking about land reclaimation at middle bank, Penang seagrass bed. Lim Guan Eng has been shouting possible water shortage in Penang after 2020 if the interstate water transfer project does not take place. But then, before this issue has been addressed, he allowed more land reclaimation and more high density development to be carried out. At first, I thought the statement government was eco-friendly as it… Read more »


LGE inspired by the Forest City project in Johor Iskandar.


Read this and now we know that the CAT DAP govt has all along been deceiving us about Botak Hill.

Baljit informed the court that he had obtained a document from a separate court case, which suggested that the state government had approved, zoned and gazetted land in Bukit Relau as residential land. Bukit Relau is commonly known as Botak Hill.
The document suggested that the Bukit Relau development was (allegedly) approved by a special project committee headed by the Chief Minister.

gk ong

As there is limited land for housing due to restriction on hill development in Penang, the remaining option is for young families to set up homes in Perai (Bagan Ajam) and commute to/fro Penang island via the tunnel in the future.


What to do? When yet to clear dump site at Jelutong highway also cost at least RM500 per sq ft as disclosed by Chow Kong Yew !

GC Tan

We are seeing high buliding in Taiping as well, 25 storeys on a hill slope. Who can help to control such activity especially on a hill slope? Is it not dangerous to built tall building on a hill slope?


Ironical that there are owners of ‘wealthy high rise condos’ on the list of signatories. Why don’t they object to their own high rise condos lighting up our shorefront like christmas lights? A case of pot calling the kettle black I think.

J Rusev

The owners of ‘wealthy high rise condos’ on the list of signatories are selfish people who want to have ‘exclusive’ rights to the hills. They want their existing properties to appreciate when there is less supply around them, All Penangites regardless of background have the right to build homes on the Penang Hill.

Phua Kai Lit

It’s like following the script for Garrett Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons”.


Btw, I went up Bukit Relau to see botak hill yesterday. There has been MORE works. There is a clear road that has been carved since the story broke. Now its wide enough to fit 2 cars! There’s also a frame that developers use to display their projects that has been erected. So basically the only works that have been done have not been done to restore the scarred landscape and sure it up to protect it from landslides, but to turn it even more into a housing development! The state government, MPPP, AND the opposition have both obviously neglected… Read more »


No photos this time but I’m asking a friend of mine who also saw it to send photos if he has them. Didn’t think there would’ve been much difference so I didn’t bring a camera. I was wrong! Previous visit was a while ago. At least 6 months.
Was actually trying to find my way to the new scar that’s to the left to have a look. That one also looks more visible from the bridge.


Its obvious that MPPP may have approved development on the hill. We can see that the 30k fine and all that hula hulu are all sandiwara. They are just waiting for things to cool down.


Ok. You complaining liberals.. How many people would pay to own a place (condo only) to own property on an Island JUST LIKE PENANG – same weather, sea breeze, same terrain, same hills and plains, even better beaches, obviously undeveloped, rustic – but its JUST LIKE PENANG – connected with bridge to mainland and even the same size and more importantly only an hour or less flight away?

Sia Bouy Pek

Eco-friendly hiking paths should be created for the public to explore the hills.
These hikers can be the eyes and ears to detect any hanky panky activities like hill clearing in the names of development.


There are many hiking paths. There is no hanky panky as these parches usually leads into land cleared for farming. You will have to confront more than 10 dogs if you really want to go in and the farmer may not allowed you in anyway. If you insist, face the dogs or their changkul into your head. The only hanky panky is the MPPP that decides to approve these land for development. Botak hill is one good example that it would already been developed if not for the outcry by NGO like Anil and many others but then they are… Read more »