Landslide in Paya Terubong shows need for hill protection

Landslide site in Paya Terubong.

We, as representatives of residents from several residential areas in Penang, express our grave concerns over the landslide at a hillslope near Lebuh Rambai 13 in Paya Terubong, Penang, that took place morning of Friday, 14 July.

The landslide happened following heavy thunderstorms that occurred early morning of Friday. Luckily this time, there were no fatalities.

We have been alerted by residents living in the vicinity of area affected by the landslide who are now fearing for the safety of their lives and property.

Several residents point to massive developments taking place on hillslopes nearby that could be endangering their safety.

The Paya Terubong landslide once again reveals the danger of allowing developments to take place on hillslopes and hills that are environmentally sensitive, and particularly so when numerous residents live at the foothills of proposed projects as is the case in Paya Terubong and Sungei Ara.

It is precisely due to previous tragedies that have occurred such as the Highland Towers collapse and landslips and landslides in Cameron Highlands that government authorities are required to be more careful in not allowing development projects on environmentally sensitive areas such as hill lands above 250 ft above sea level and with steep gradients exceeding 25 degrees.

Development on sensitive hill lands of more than 250 feet should not be allowed, as they pose serious environmental and social impacts for residents in the neighbouring lands such as soil erosion, landslides and landslips, unstable soils and negative impacts from blasting works etc.

The Penang Structure Plan 2020 which was gazetted in 2007 and states that the exception to the prohibition on hill land development is only for ‘special projects’ but it does not define what they are. The definition and the guidelines for ‘special projects’ were approved by the present government in 2009.

This is why we reiterate our call issued on 9 July to the Penang State Government to:

(1)   revise or redefine what are ‘special projects’ in the 2009 guidelines in order to explicitly prohibit any future development on hill lands except for essential public amenities, pending a revision of the new Structure Plan.

(2)   Since the present Structure Plan is now pending revision, the State should also ensure the explicit prohibition of any future development on hill lands except for essential public amenities and

(3)   the State should also stop approving any further applications for excision of the status of ‘hill lands’ from the Land Conservation Act 1960.

As regards the safety of the residents in the vicinity of the landslide incident in Paya Terubong, we call on the relevant state and federal authorities as well as the Majlis Bandaraya Pulau Pinang to take all necessary action urgently to ensure that no further landslides or landslips occur and to stabilise the hillslopes.

Any development project in the area that may have contributed to the landslide must be urgently investigated and monitored with actions taken to prevent any untoward tragedies or events from taking place.

The recent landslide could be a warning that must not go unheeded of deeper problems relating to the stability of hill slopes and soils in the area.  This is especially so when heavy rains are expected in the coming days.

We therefore call for urgent action to be taken to protect the safety of residents in the affected area.

This statement is issued by the following organisations:

1.      Meenakshi Raman, Tanjung Bungah Residents Association

2.      Dr. Ti Lian Geh, Taman Sri Rambai /Taman Lau Geok Swee  Residents’ Association, Paya Terubong

3.      Manuel Nicholas, Management Corporation Sunrise Garden Condominium, Sungei Ara

4.      Medalene Sim, Management Committee Solok Kelicap, Sg. Ara

5.      Tan Sri Datuk Gajaraj Dhanarajan, Management Corporation of The Cove,Tanjung Bungah

6.      Jeffery Ho, Taman Sri Nibong Residents Association,Sungei Nibong

7.      Abdul Rahim bin Sultan, Management Corporation of Desaria Sri Merpati Apartments, Taman Desaria, Sg. Ara

8.      Ang Sue Khoo, Pykett Residents’ Committee

9.      Henry Loh, Management Corporation of Diamond Villa, Tanjung Bungah

10.     Abdul Razak Bin Osman, Management Corporation Taman Sri Putera, Taman Desaria, Sg. Ara

11.     Haji Fadzil Bin Hitam, Desaria Residents Association, Sg. Ara

12.     Andy Saw, Management Corporation Regency Heights Condominium, Taman Desaria, Sg. Ara

13.     Hor Cheok Weng, Management Committee of Mawar Apartments, Sungei Nibong

Press Release, 16 July 2017