Hill-slope projects: Contrasting positions of S’gor and Pg


Compare and contrast the Selangor and Penang governments’ contrasting stands on hill-slope development. Both of them are under Pakatan rule, but look at the difference in their positions. You tell me which sounds more principled…

The Penang government’s position from the Malaysian Insider:

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 10 — Penang’s Chief Minister wants the federal government to set up a geotechnical engineering unit under the Public Works Department to ensure the safety of all hillside developments.

In light of the latest landslide incident in Bukit Antarabangsa which killed four people, Lim Guan Eng said Malaysia should learn from the painful experience and emulate Hong Kong, where 80 per cent of the buildings sit on slopes.

Says one long-time Penang resident:

A good reflection of where this DAP government stands with regard to hill-slope development. Very business friendly….

Lim Guan Eng knows full well that the Federal Govt will NOT implement such a suggestion. But he makes it anyway so he looks good, like he cares but in effect, he does not. Because, if he really cared (for public safety), instead of taking care of business interests, he would have called for a full moratorium or stop on hill development in Penang.

This perception is by no means an isolated one among those concerned about the environment in Penang. The following is a comment from another long-time resident of Penang, a foreigner who “is saddened by the destruction of Penang’s once beautiful north coast, where Moonlight Bay has become ‘Moonscape Bay’ and a disaster waiting to happen.”

I never thought I would see it but awareness and sentiment finally seem to be moving against the madness of clearing and building on dangerous hill slopes.  It is a pity though that Penang is still far behind Selangor in taking the necessary measures to prevent further tragedy and environmental degradation.  Selangor Exco member Elizabeth Wong’s article “Bitter vindication” in theSun 10 December p.16 should be read and disseminated widely. The issue really is one of putting “people” ahead of “profits.”

This is theSun report he was referring to:

Bitter vindication
by Elizabeth Wong

ONE of the earliest policy decisions by the Pakatan Rakyat Selangor government was to throw out any housing and building applications for Class 3 and Class 4 hillslopes to preserve environmentally sensitive areas and prevent landslides. This was decided at an executive council meeting on April 2.

Selangor became the first state in the federation to have complied with the Federal Town and Country Planning Department’s Total Planning Guidelines 1997 (2nd edition, 2001) which states that no housing development should be allowed on slopes with 25° and above gradients.

Developers thought it was a late April Fool’s joke. Since our ban, they have used all means – the media, blogs, lobbying by state reps and MPs etc to change our minds. We were vilified as “anti-business” and “anti-development”. I have even had some of our Pakatan MPs asking us to make exceptions for Class 3 slopes.

I was told they particularly disliked me and called me “lan-si” (arrogant) just because during a public meeting of developers, NGOs, residents and the exco, one of the key developers questioned how the state government could stop hillslope development, and I answered, “Because we can…” And none were too happy when I had to repeatedly wave the Total Planning Guidelines book at them.

And every couple of months, we have had to repeat our policy decision. Even as recent as last month, developers were insisting that they had the right to develop hill slopes and some had told a couple of exco members that they were planning to sue us. One of them said we would have to compensate them RM330 million (25% of our state budget) for possible loss of profits. Imagine the pressure of a lobby group whose combined income and assets dwarfs the state government!

Saturday’s tragedy proves the correctness of the decision of the state government. But vindication which comes after the loss of four lives and more homes is unspeakably bitter. There are some 5,000 residents living in the vicinity of the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide who face uncertainty and may have to vacate their homes.

We ask that developers stop pursuing and pressuring us to review our policy, and instead thoroughly go through every single technicality of their existing hillslope projects.

While Ikram and the Public Works Department are responsible for pinpointing the cause of the tragedy, the state government will immediately review all approved hillslope projects by the previous administration, whether standing or partially built.

Those where there is no construction yet but approved before March 8 should not be allowed to proceed, especially along the same range of Bukit Antarabangsa and Hulu Kelang – which should include Taman Hijau and Bukit Melawati.

We had come too late. Many of the hillslope projects have been standing for a number of years, some were half completed when we came into power. Without proper maintenance of slopes and drainage on these private lands, tragedy will strike after many years, always after the period of indemnity is over. Those areas shown to be prone to landslides such as in Hulu Kelang, where the Public Works Department had flashed its red card in 2005, more stringent conditions will be imposed on existing projects.

All developers and private land owners have to protect and reinforce their own hillslopes if they want to continue to prosper, own property and do business in Selangor. We recently received complaints from Ampang, Kajang, Cheras and Pandan where private landowners and developers have neglected to protect hillslopes and there are already signs of wear and tear. Some have used plastic sheets and some said they were bankrupt and don’t have the funds to repair their slopes. Whatever. If they do not do the necessary, we will blacklist them.

We ask that “people” be put ahead of “profits”.

We are heartened that finally, after eight months of battling the housing industry, the federal government has come to our side to give Selangor, both the moral and policy support it needs, with both the prime minister and deputy prime minister calling for all hillslope development permits to be cancelled.

We can only hope the federal government doesn’t forget Dec 6, 2008 – like what had happened to Highland Towers (1993); Taman Hillview (2002) and Kg Pasir (2006) – which was less than a kilometre from Saturday’s landslide. Lest the lives lost would be in vain.

The writer is assemblywoman for Bukit Lanjan and state executive councillor in charge of the environment. Comment: [email protected]

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15 Dec 2008 9.39am

RuiRui seth

“Adun of Tanjung Bungah/Batu Feringhi promised to plant a million trees or so (cannot remember the figure) when voted in. Where are the trees?”

Why don’t you ask Guan Eng that question? After all it’s Guan Eng who chose him to represent the people of Tanjung Bunga.

Last time I read about that adun guy, he’s on his bicycle.

14 Dec 2008 3.36pm

Dear Penang,
It’s Economics! Stupids! Business friendly means more jobs for people especially the poor. Especially when thousands are losing jobs. Aiyah, lets study Hong Kong’s method of handling hill slope development. It will be a win win for all.

Penang government has a revenue of 220 million with a 40 million deficit. With no natural resource, have some economic sense while commenting things around here

14 Dec 2008 9.24am

Adun of Tanjung Bungah/Batu Feringhi promised to plant a million trees or so (cannot remember the figure) when voted in. Where are the trees?

Ong Eu Soon
Ong Eu Soon
13 Dec 2008 10.10pm

When a construction project is given approval in Malaysia, the developer is like given a blank check. They can do what they want, until disaster happen, the politicians will come out and blame each other. Wake up! Until today, our government regardless from BN or PR still fail to regulate construction sites! I won’t mind you develop on hill slope unless you prove that you are capable of enact the various law governing the environment. Bare eroding slopes and drain choked with sediment are still common sights at all construction sites. You want to emulate Hong Kong? Tell me can… Read more »

13 Dec 2008 8.50pm

In response to “Penangites” — you gotta understand that our Anil here is a left-wing tree-hugging socialist.

Everything that is even has an iota of perception of “business friendly” would automatically be condemned.

To Anil, and SOS Ong, and all those tree-huggers, the best thing the Penang government can do is to demolish each and every building in this state, and let the plants to grow and animals to roam freely.

Yessiree, this, to them, is UTOPIA.

13 Dec 2008 12.45am

This talk about emulating Hong Kong… it needs pointing out that their civil service is run on competence. Here, decades of social engineering have created a culture of incompetence, complacency and tidak-apa-ness. We’re light-years behind Hong Kong; we don’t have the human resources in the govt depts needed for this experiment in taming the hills.
Anyway, who really wants our green hills to be concrete mountains the way Hong Kong is?

12 Dec 2008 7.04pm

Anil, Sometimes I find yr post to have a slight twist and turn of actual facts. Of course constructive criticism is welcome , regardless of who may be, including Pakatan Govt and etc. But yr subject “Contrasting position of Sgor n Penang” is quite misleading. Don’t think you’re right in this sense, both state govts just have different approach, not really a contrasting one. The bottomline, both govts did acknowledge the risk of hillslope development. Both states are very different in terms of geographical landscape, size and etc. It’s common to have different approach towards hillslope development, but at the… Read more »

Very Concerned !
Very Concerned !
12 Dec 2008 4.20pm

Brother, I am posting this because I am very, VERY concern about the education system in Malaysia. Please refer to the following links: Math http://i36.tinypic.com/28b5uzp.jpg Science http://i38.tinypic.com/jqhu2r.jpg In Science ( http://i38.tinypic.com/jqhu2r.jpg ), Singapore scores 32%, while Malaysia scores 3% In Math, ( http://i36.tinypic.com/28b5uzp.jpg ), Singapore scores 40%, while Malaysia scores 2% Please brother, please accept my apology for posting this message here. I couldn’t find any other place to send you this message. I hope you could start a topic regarding education. Apparently, something is TERRIBLY WRONG !! The system won’t change by itself. Let’s get the People to change… Read more »

12 Dec 2008 2.33pm

>>>And just to correct what commenter mut said, Hong Kong has a total area of 1104 sq km, while Penang state itself has a total area of 1046 sq km. Penang is slightly smaller than Hong Kong. (Hong Kong consists of 3 parts, HK island, Kowloon and New territories aka “san kai”).<<< If you look at the total land size, they seem alike. But if you consider factors such as population density, we will get a different picture. If you take in the population figures (HK 7m – 4th densest in world, Penang Island 750K) then you will see we… Read more »

12 Dec 2008 2.00pm

Thank god it finally happened in Bkt Antarabangsa again. If this landslide happens in some other non-posh/disposable area, no VIP will come to visit or start any commission or giving a second glance and lost of life will continue.

12 Dec 2008 1.03pm

I have to agree with hoyohoyo If you ppl don’t mind me asking – For those who are living in Tanjung Bungah or Batu Ferringhi, shouldn’t you be afraid that your property will slide like the ones in Bukit Antarabangsa? The logical answer should be yes. If you answer yes to my question, shouldn’t you move out or sell your property now??? What are you waiting for? For disaster to happen then only you wanna move out? For death to happen then only you wanna abandon your lovely homes? We all know that houses are costing millions because the area… Read more »

12 Dec 2008 11.08am

People, there will be a joint press conference by TBRA (Tanjung Bungah) & Chee Seng Garden RA (Residents Associations)to raise concern about the highrise hillslope development @ 7.30 p.m. today (Dec 12) at No: 79 Jalan Chan Siew Teong. Residents in the area are suggested to come for support. Thank you.

12 Dec 2008 6.56am

Penang CM is right about the slope maintenance and management. Whatever projects that was approved and carried out by previous administration need to be checked properly and more strigently now. DID need to step up and check all projects in Malaysia. Not only highway projects but also housing development projects that mostly do not have proper irrigation and drainage maintenance from the start.

Ong Eu Soon
Ong Eu Soon
12 Dec 2008 1.20am

Talking about solving flash flood problem, the Penang state government already run out of idea doesn’t know what to do. Now the state government want us to believe that they can handle hillslope development. Both flooding and landslide are caused by unmanaged stormwater runoff. If on flat ground the state government doesn’t know what to do with stormwater runoff, you sincerely believe it can manage stormwater runoff on disturbed hillslope? Landslide not only caused by unmanaged stormwater runoff, the other important aspect is the site topology which most experts choose to ignore. Whether a hillslope is suitable for development is… Read more »

12 Dec 2008 12.58am

I just happen to visit your blog not long- sometime on September and it’s fabulous with updated info and alignment in clarity and in space.

Hey mate, you are the top rising blogger more popular than RPK and Sloone. Wow!


11 Dec 2008 11.09pm

I have tried to raise the attention of some online press to the Penang CM seemingly ambiguous standpoint on the hillside development isuues. No one seems to be interested, perhaps it’s not salient to critisize the PR government now.. Anyhow, thank God Anil this did not escape your sense. Just wish to bring a few points worth paying attention regarding the “Commission” set up by CM on hillside development. 1. Of the six or seven memebers team, two identity were made public. Who are the rest? If the government is a CAT one, current position, and their CV on the… Read more »

Gary Yeoh
Gary Yeoh
11 Dec 2008 8.01pm

If we are to progress as a nation, then we must recognize that what we have for the past years is not “Progression” but “Regression”. For a nation so rich in natural resources and an initial heritage of receptive and creative people, any growth of our nation (as we must not deny) is in my mind not a spectacular one. Our leaders (not necessarily restricted to BN), especially in the last 25yrs or so, have slowly been spending away what we have. In one way or another, we all played a part in that. The question remains, do we continue… Read more »

11 Dec 2008 7.36pm

Open letter to Anil, We dare you publish this letter. You have no right to write or publish any thing that is critical toward the present state government but you can hentam the previous administration. The eunuchs & the apologists have every right to swear & curse at you if you failed to toe our line. it doesn’t matter if what you said is right, as long as you are critical of our prince, you are wrong & damned wrong, deserved to be cursed. we, the eunuch & apologists are monitoring your every move, so you better make us happy… Read more »

Paul Warren
11 Dec 2008 4.31pm

I remember the advertsement on saving the sharks and the wild life. When the buying stops, so will the killing! You want to stop the developers? Easy! Stop buying hillslope properties. We can all make hill slope properties not worth a developers interest by giving it absolutely no value. Fine let the rich and super rich build some fine houses there which are properly landscaped and with just one dwelling in every couple of acres or so. But to congest hill slopes with condos is quite another. For those thinking that if they can do it in Hong Kong, so… Read more »

11 Dec 2008 3.11pm

If Lim Guan Eng goverment cannot handle these hill slope development properly, Penangite should not vote them anymore in next election. Don’t give excuse that Penang scarce of land. Give priority to Penang’s nature such as beach, hill and park. Don’t overdevelop Tanjung Bungah-Batu Feringghi area. This area should be left green. DAP candidate will not get my vote in the next election if they don’t put nature first!

11 Dec 2008 3.11pm

Please see how Hong Kong has developed its hilside.


Sam Gopal
Sam Gopal
11 Dec 2008 2.21pm

Anil, The disaster is hitting very close to home too. In our apartment we have been hit twice by flooding this year from Sep-Nov. One was major,and the 2nd one receded as the rains subsided. In 2000, we had worked with USM to control the level of the lake water. However, now with the at least 3 construction sites upstream, that is, the 2-3 major hillside projects along Bukit Gambir and also the clearing of the slopes by illegals, have resulted in a greater run-off of water flowing downstream. This in-turn fills up the USM lake faster, and within a… Read more »

11 Dec 2008 1.08pm

You think developer is crazy to build something up on a hill if there is no demand? Buyer must be educated first. The media educate people more on car buying than property.

To stop buyer will want compensation, not stop will cost lifes. How? ask Koh Tsu Koon as task force head and see if he agrees. ‘ Lu si lu eh su'(u die not my problem), he’d say.

Jackie Teo
Jackie Teo
11 Dec 2008 12.40pm

Let’s imagine beyond our horizon on Municipal’s immunity syndrome:- 1 It is arguable when we have a Capitalist regime, it tends to favor it’s affiliated bodies as compared to others. Easier to work in this scenario 2 In a Capitalist regime and if I am immune from law suits for any wrong doing, then it is presumably PRODUCTIVITY will increase without fear but maybe with favor!!! 3 Tapalah, kita boleh buat apa-apa, bukan dia boleh sue sama kita!!! Suka hati kita lah…. Sini sana approve salah tak apa lah!!! Kena sue it developer mah & bukan kerajaan!!! Bodoh, you tak… Read more »

11 Dec 2008 11.31am

Just to add a bit more…

HK island itself is almost 1/4 of Penang island, but together with the other 2 parts, it ends up about the size of Penang Island + Seberang Perai. One thing for sure, Penang has much worse transport system compared to HK…