We want green hills in Penang, not concrete jungles

 Over the past few years, hills in Penang have been slowly losing their green lustre and now blemished with concrete buildings. Houses and high-rise buildings have cropped up in the hill slopes in Paya Terubong, Sungai Ara, Tanjung Bungah, Bukit Gambier, Bukit Jambul, Batu Ferringhi, etc.

Hills serve a variety of important ecological functions ranging from regulating the microclimate to maintaining the hydrological regime. Local communities in Penang also benefit from the hills as a source of water, for outdoor activities and some just enjoy its greenery and aesthetical value.  However these benefits are slowly diminishing as some of the hills in Penang are threatened by development projects.

Hill lands are extremely sensitive to human-induced environmental changes. The majority of slope failures occurring on hills and highlands in Malaysia are due to disturbance of these fragile ecosystems, especially when man had altered the original terrain. The disasters involving landslides and slope failures in the past are testimony to the fact that some development have gone beyond the limits allowed by nature.

The residents protesting the proposed housing development in Lot 14345, Mukim 12 in Sungai Ara that involves bungalows and high-rise blocks are concerned of their safety and loss of green lungs.  Their objection will be heard by the Penang Appeals Board. Nevertheless there is still an opportunity for the local planning authority to reconsider the proposed development here.

Subsection 25(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 states that “If it appears to the local planning authority to be in the public interest that a planning permission granted under section 22 (3) or an approval of a building plan given under any of the previous local government laws should be revoked or modified, the local planning authority may order the permission or approval to be revoked or modified to such extent as appears to it to be necessary.”

CAP and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) thus call on the local planning authority to revoke the planning permission and stop the proposed development here. The Penang State Government and Municipal Councils are urged to ensure that all hills in Penang are fully protected and gazetted as Permanent Reserved Forest.

Press Statement, 13 May 2012