GEORGE TOWN, Oct 27 — With the fatal landslide still in the forefront, a Penang residents’ group demanded today the state government and the local council to explain their conflicting policy and action on the development of highrise buildings on hill slopes.
Tanjung Bungah Residents Association (TBRA) chairman Meenakshi Raman claimed the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) had approved construction of highrise apartments and bungalows on land above 76 metres for the Sunway City project in Sungai Ara five years ago, based on the state’s 2009 guidelines for “special projects”.
“In fact, we are shocked to learn that the state authority had in 2011 approved an application by the developer to remove the ‘hill land’ status of the lands under the Land Conservation Act 1960,” she said in a statement issued today.
Meenakshi, a lawyer and local activist, insisted that MBPP’s approval to amend the hill land status ran “completely” against the state government’s stance “that hill lands must be protected”.
She was referring to the assurance made by housing development committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo that the state government prohibits any new high-rise development on lands above 76 metres (250 feet) above sea level.
She claimed the Sungai Ara project was for 600 units on 80 acres of land at 76m above sea level with about 43 per cent of the units on slopes exceeding a gradient of 25 degrees.
She said the state government must now revise and redefine the term “special projects” under its 2009 guidelines to prohibit future developments on hill lands except only for essential public amenities.
“The state must also stop approving any further applications for excision of the status of ‘hill lands’ from the Land Conservation Act 1960,” she said.
She called on the state authorities and MBPP to monitor all developments on hill lands and hill slopes in Penang and to take immediate measures to ensure the safety of those living at the foothills of such developments such as those in Taman Seri Rambai and Taman Lau Geok Swee in Paya Terubong.
“We want the Penang state government and MBPP to clarify as to why it is not following the policy in the Penang Structural Plan which designates Tanjung Bungah as being in the secondary corridor,” she said.
Meenakshi said the structure plan clearly states housing development in Tanjung Bungah cannot exceed 15 units per acre and yet this policy was not adhered to.
“Why has the state and the MBPP not followed this policy which is legally binding?” she asked.
TBRA welcomed the state’s proposal to set up a State Commission of Inquiry (SCI) into the deadly landslide at a construction site in Lembah Permai that killed 11 workers.
“We ask that the SCI be open to the public to ensure transparency in view of the public interest involved, and that it also allows the full participation and engagement of all stakeholders, including TBRA,” she said.