Enough with hillslope development

Jacob George

Modified 25 Oct 2018, 11:10 am

LETTER | I do not know if any of you still remember the tragedy but also the promises made and assurances given by many politicians following the Highland Towers tragedy in 1993.

Since then there have been repeated hillslope tragedies occurring which raised the whole question of hillslope construction. After each tragedy, we are told to take an objective look at reasons behind the collapse of the hill slope before conducting a trial by media and enforcing a blame game.

There were also calls and chants urging the previous federal government to amend the Road, Drainage and Building Act 1974 to prevent further tragedies involving development on slopes.

The tragedies continue unabated. In 2017, three newly-built luxury houses on the hillside of Tanjung Bungah, Penang were destroyed after heavy downpour triggered a landslide and sink-hole, causing the whole double-lane road in front of the premises to collapse.

For the record, the said units were going for between RM1.6 million and RM2.3 million each. In October last year, at Lengkok Lembah Permai, Penang, a landslide claimed the lives of 10 workers, including a Malaysian site supervisor.

On record, there was the setting up of a commission to uncover the truth behind the tragic landslide and the cause of the failure of the temporary worksite slope. What has happened to that commission?

Various quarters have questioned the Penang government's seriousness in finding out the truth and putting a much-needed halt to all hillside construction.

Just when we thought in post-GE14 in this New Malaysia we will see dedication, micro-managing surveillance, zero-tolerance and a plan and process that will see no more political or industry shenanigans, we have this – the Bukit Kukus landslide and more fatalities!

So I cannot but support my colleagues in Penang and concur that it was certainly willful non-compliance by contractors stemming from a lack of monitoring and enforcement that resulted in the latest tragedy.

I agree that quite rightly that this tragedy could have been avoided if the authorities had been steadfast in their duty.

Was there compliance by the contractors and were there gaps, negligence and failure on the part of the authorities who were expected to be on top of things?

There is no such thing as self-regulation on the part of developers and contractors as these quarters are more interested in profits.

Current laws are also inadequate and not stiff enough to deter wrongdoings in the industry and others who insulate them. Cassa Malaysia will support any legislation where contractors, professionals and the holding companies are held liable and given punitive sanctions and penalties as a deterrent for such environmental crimes.

We also need a public register identifying public officers, companies, contractors and professionals linked to problem projects so that there can be more oversight by third parties or a national task force of eminent public interest individuals monitoring such activities.

Failing which another tragic incident will take place followed by more media statements by professionals and pretenders. I call for a total halt to all hill slope construction in Malaysia, period.

The writer is president, Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam (Cassa).

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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