GEORGE TOWN: More than 100ha of land on the Penang Hill range have been cleared to date, state Hill Land Working Committee chairman Farizan Darus said today.
He said a preliminary report showed the majority of the clearing was carried out at the range close to the Relau and Paya Terubong townships, with some 90ha cleared.
Farizan added earthworks covering 14ha were also carried out in Bukit Kukus, near Paya Terubong, Air Itam.
“The Bukit Kukus clearing is to facilitate the construction of a 5km road that connects to Jalan Paya Terubong and is scheduled to be completed by 2019.
“In the case of the other clearings, we have resolved to prosecute those who illegally cleared land, through an integrated approach formulated today,” he said in a press statement today.
Farizan said this approach would involve multiple agencies investigating and issuing notices to those who flouted existing land codes.
Recently, The Star reported that indiscriminate farming had led to widespread bald patches on the Penang Hill range.
It was accompanied by an aerial photograph of farming terraces cut into the hillside.
It said the excess clearing was comparable to those discovered two years ago in Cameron Highlands, Pahang.
Other aerial photographs showed construction work, ostensibly without permit, taking place at elevations 180m to 450m above sea level on the hill range.
Residents had previously brought up their concerns about illegal structures being erected and about soil erosion.
Farizan said landowners flouting the law can expect to be charged under several laws, i.e. the National Land Code, Road, Drainage and Buildings Act 1974 and the Town and Country Planning Act 1976.
“The land administrators and municipalities have been ordered to go to each suspected clearing site.
“This has to be done before prosecuting the owners. We must also understand that the hill land is vast.”
Farizan, who is also state secretary, said the committee would reconvene on Friday to put the findings on the table and discuss the next course of action.
The committee comprises the heads of the Lands and Mines Department, Town and Country Planning Department, and Planning and Development Department, all five district officers, and representatives of the two local authorities.