Malaysia: MNS questions Penang's seriousness in imposing stricter conditions on projects

SOO WERN JUN New Straits Times 22 Oct 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Penang branch advisor D. Kanda Kumar has alleged that many projects approved by Penang state government do not follow the guidelines provided in the existing structure plan.

He claimed that the discovery was made after several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and MNS had engaged with experts to inspect and conduct surveys on the development sites in the state.

“The structure plan allows for developments of certain sizes but not to the density level of this 49-story-building. The area cannot support such a dense structure.

“Prior to the approval of these projects, it was stated in the guidelines that the state government should impose stringent conditions to prevent landslides from happening in these sensitive areas.

“But sadly, it does not look like there have been stringent conditions imposed on the projects prior to approval,” he said when contacted.

Responding to the Tanjung Bungah landslide that happened on Saturday morning, Kanda said the attention drawn to whether the landslide happened due to a quarry located near the construction site was irrelevant.

“It did not matter which came first. Whether the quarry or the structure came first is not the question. Either way, both cannot exist together.

“If the state government knew the quarry existed, it should not have approved the project at Tanjung Bungah.

“Similarly, if the structure had existed, the quarry should not have been approved. They are both too near to each other and hence causing disruption to the environment,” he explained.

On reports that the quarry was approved by the previous state government, Kanda said: “Whether or not these projects were approved by the previous state government, the current state government has the power and authority to impose stricter conditions prior to project approvals.

“These projects only had their plans approved, but had not received building approval. The current state government could have done something to prevent damage to the environment,” said Kanda.

He said many years back, MNS together with environmental NGOs in Penang had repeatedly called for the state government to halt all hillslope developments.

These calls grew stronger following the last landslide incident that happened at Taman Lau Geok Swee in Paya Terubong.

“There were several previous landslides such as the landslip that happened on the road from Relau heading to Balik Pulau and the road heading towards Teluk Bahang.

“But the landslide that occurred in Tanjung Bungah yesterday that buried 14 people alive is one of Penang’s most deadly landslide tragedy.

“How many more of these landslides that has to happen for the state government to take things seriously?” said Kanda when contacted.

DAP state assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu had also said earlier that there are still 10 other development projects pending, but his plea to save the hills has been constantly ignored.

According to Teh, some of the projects will be located near hillsides and more planned along the coastline where a few are projected to be 50 to 60 storeys-high.

Tanjung Bungah is one of the few residential areas on the island with a low population density.