This is a close-up view of what Botak Hill looks like these days. The video footage was taken by a concerned Penangite.
You can imagine the surface run-off from those badly eroded slopes and deep gullys during heavy rain.
The Penang Island City Council is supposed to be overseeing at least damage mitigation if not restoration of Botak Hill. But judging from these images, the condition looks dire.
Although hills in many other parts of the country have been scarred as well, the impact of such degradation is felt greater in Penang because of the high population density close to the hills.
A couple of nights ago, floods were reported in Sungai Ara, Bayan Baru, Relau, Bukit Jambul, Sungai Nibong, Jalan Sungai Dua and Brown Garden, among various affected places on the island and the mainland (including areas close to Bagan Specialist Centre).
Even the area around the large concrete Spice convention centre was hit.
Imagine how these repeated floods are going to affect property values of the affected homes – and insurance premiums for flood cover (if at all homes, apartment blocks, and vehicles are covered from flood damage), not to mention the mess and damage left behind.
The intensity of the rain, probably due to climate change, led to rising water levels in rivers and drains. But this was aggravated by haphazard and high-density over-development of buildings, considerable hill-slope development and the pouring of concrete and tar all over flat ground – without sufficient open spaces for ground-water absorption and adequate drainage infrastructure.
All this has been allowed to take place in the absence of the Penang Island Local Plan, which was approved by the City Council in 2008, but then never put up for public display or gazetted.
Since then, there has been a four-fold increase in maximum density allowed for new projects – from 30 homes per acre to the present 128 homes per acre. If that is not over-development, I don’t know what is.