After landslide fiasco, time KLites elect mayor

I refer to the major landslide at Bukit Setiawangsa gracing the front pages of major newspapers Dec 30, 2012.

As reported by The Star, the mayor was quoted as saying that, “The retaining wall in Bukit Setiawangsa was the wrong type,” and that, “The shotcrete retaining wall, which was built in 1992, would not have been approved today as it would not have met present ‘specifications' and 'nobody could be blamed for the landslide as the developer had adhered o the previous guidelines.

“When asked why the wall was not rebuilt in order to comply with the 2010 guidelines, Ahmad Phesal said the developer, I&P Group Sdn Bhd, monitored and conducted maintenance work on the wall in 2007.”

The obvious question that remains unanswered as to what happened between 2010 and present day in terms of monitoring and remediation works? Where is the urgency in this matter? Did DBKL not engage appropriately qualified and independent geotechnical consultants prior o 2010 to draft their guideline? Shouldn't they investigate the matter thoroughly before absolving from the responsibility at the beginning?

In another article published in The Star, “Real Estate and Housing Developers' Association Malaysia (Rehda) president Michael Yam remarked that 'new developments upstream may have discharged water that eventually made its way into the retaining wall.”

Is no one responsible to monitor slope safety or approve development that takes into account the safety of the surrounding areas? Have the authorities not learnt from the Highland Towers tragedy 20 years ago, where the development in the surrounding areas led to the structural damage of Highland Towers, which claimed  48 lives?

A quick search online shows concerns regarding unresolved development and soil stability issues, such as that in Bukit Gasing
whose archive dates back to 2006, and one in Solaris Mont Kiara since 2010.

What has happened since then? In the case of Solaris, worrisome soil erosion occurred during the recent heavy rainfall and rectification works were then seen to be done. What caused this soil erosion? Is there a long term solution to ensure soil stability? Have they been appropriately advised?

In the Bukit Setiawangsa case, maintenance works were done by the developer in 2007, but now the mayor says no one is responsible after a major landslide. What confidence should we have in the measures taken by the authorities for our safety?

After the landslide in Bukit Setiawangsa, geotechnical consultants are being interviewed in the newspapers to ascertain the cause. It would be a shame and a failure for all involved if the appropriate expertise are being consulted and their suggestions are being implemented only after a major
tragedy.

It seems no one is responsible and we have a system that breeds impunity and a lack of urgency when needed. If the system is broken, maybe we should change it.

Most major cities in the world have elected mayors who would then be directly accountable to the residents, and not to those who appoint them. What local authorities have an impact on how we live - where our garbage goes, the safety of our roads, what we consume in regards to the hygiene of restaurants, and how developments are approved and monitored; their actions or inactions can determine the safety of where we live and work, often without us even knowing, and at times, knowing when it is too late.

As the recent landslide example goes, it is a matter of life and death. If local authorities do not, or cannot perform the responsibilities entrusted to them time and time again, then it is high time we ask for a system that is more transparent and truly accountable to the local residents.

It is simply a ridiculous joke that KL-ites have no say as to how they want their lives to be governed, or at most have an indirect, minuscule vote to determine the federal government who appoints the mayor. With the vastly uneven ratios of voter-per-MP between a constituency in KL and that in Putrajaya, one can say that a voter in Putrajaya (or even a constituency in Sarawak) has more value to its vote that determines who eventually runs our city.

In the meantime, us inhabitants have to be vigilant of our surroundings, and to start asking the right questions to the right people, beyond what is merely reported - something our mainstream media has thus far failed to do in matters of public interest.