Over 200 people participated in the forum organised by Penang Forum on 12 December, reflecting the concern felt by many Penangites. At the end of the forum, the following declaration was made.
We, the Penang civil society community groups and concerned individuals who participated in the Save our Hills public forum on 12 December 2015 at Dewan Sri Pinang,
note three issues of grave concern:
- Recent developments on the hills of Penang, where both legal and illegal cutting of the hills is taking place with increasing frequency and intensity, resulting in erosion, landslides, flooding, and loss of water catchment areas.
- The indiscriminate cutting of hills for residential development goes against the Penang State Green policy to protect hill land. Yet, in its State Assembly sitting in November 2015 it was revealed since 2008, approval has been given for 56 housing projects in these ecologically sensitive areas. Many of these buildings are over 30 to 40 stories high.
- The revelation that there are 68 known cases of illegal hill cutting, reflecting ineffective monitoring and prosecution of these offenders.
We make four recommendations:
- Penang State government to adhere to its own GREEN policy to protect hill land by prohibiting any more new development above 250 feet or greater than a 25-degree gradient, and reveal details of all ‘special projects’ immediately.
- Ensure that an independent environmental impact assessment conforming to strict environmental standards must precede every hill development project (per first Penang Forum held on 13 April 2008).
- Local councils to prosecute the violators to the full extent of the law and to press for jail sentences and to blacklist all offenders for future development projects.
- Should offenders fail to restore the destroyed hills to their natural condition as required within the stipulated time frame, the authorities undertake the restoration work, all costs charged to the offenders, and further prosecute them for failure of compliance.