Halt all hillslope development, Penang Forum tells state

penang-forum

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Forum has repeated its call for all hillslope development to be stopped immediately, following yesterday’s deadly hillslope collapse in Tanjung Bungah which buried 14 people alive.

The influential grouping of 20 NGOs also took the Penang government and the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) to task for lapses in monitoring construction sites in such sensitive areas.

They said the tragedy served as a wake-up call for the state, which needs to stop giving permission to developers to build on hillslopes with steep gradients.

They also called on all residents’ associations (RAs) and management bodies of apartment and condominium complexes to apply pressure on their elected legislators to help stop hillslope development.

“Why must it take a tragedy to happen in Penang before the state and local governments wake up to the dangers of rampant and unsustainable development, especially on hillslopes? Will they wake up?” Penang Forum member Lim Mah Hui told a press conference at the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) here today.

“We would like to urge all RAs, management bodies of apartments, condos to sign the petition to stop such incessant development on our precious hills,” he said.

He said the forum was planning to form a larger umbrella body of RAs and management bodies via the Residents’ Association of Penang (RAP).

Meanwhile CAP vice-president Mohideen Abdul Kader called for a citizens’ campaign to help make the voices of Penangites be heard on the issue.

He said local NGOs had banded together in the early 1990s to form “The Friends of Penang Hill” grouping which had applied pressure on the authorities to give up the idea of developing Penang Hill.

That campaign was said to have cost the then chief minister Lim Chong Eu from Gerakan to lose his Padang Kota state seat to DAP’s Lim Kit Siang, who is incidentally the father of current chief minister Lim Guan Eng.

Mohideen said the local authorities’ engagement with NGOs had clearly become a mere formality, with inputs from the NGOs not being taken into consideration.

He claimed that several ideas articulated by NGOs and other citizens at public hearings were not taken into account in decision-making.

He said the state government and local councils needed to listen to the concerns aired by the NGOs that had struggled to save Penang’s hills for the past three decades.

“They should not be arrogant and feel that they only have the wisdom and knowledge to make decisions.

“The authorities must listen to the people and take care of their interests first, not those of the developers,” Mohideen said.

Yesterday’s landslide in Tanjung Bungah buried 14 people alive at a condominium construction site.

The Penang government has since decided to form a state “commission of inquiry” to look into the cause of the incident.

The Tanjung Bungah Residents’ Association, together with Tanjung Bungah assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu, had previously objected to the 49-storey condominium development project.

Those interested in enquiring about the Residents’ Association of Penang may visit https://www.facebook.com/penangforum

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