Include Penang landslide lessons in hill slope law amendments, NGO tells govt

CHANT legal adviser Yan Lee showing a slope registration tag from Hong Kong. He says Malaysia should emulate their model in maintaining hill slopes.

GEORGE TOWN: An NGO has called on the federal government to incorporate lessons learned from Penang’s landslides and natural disasters in amending a federal law concerning hill slopes.

Citizen Awareness Chant Group (CHANT) legal adviser Yan Lee said the government should also hold town hall sessions on hill slope development and maintenance.

Lee was referring to Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail’s announcement that local governments would soon have the power to enter hill sites with steep slopes through an amendment to the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974.

Under the existing law, local councils cannot examine buildings located on hill slopes.

The amendment will allow councils to enter premises and require buildings on a slope of more than 25 degrees and on a height of 10m and above to be sized up for a geotechnical report.

Wan Azizah said this after chairing a National Council for Local Government meeting last month.

Lee said there must be no loopholes in the law, and that it must not be silent on man-made slopes. He said the law should not just govern naturally occurring hill slopes, but hill sites which were cut beyond 25 degrees as well.

Lee said the government should take a cue from the Tanjung Bungah State Commission of Inquiry (SCI) into the fatal landslide at a hill area last year to look for ways to improve the law.

He said at the hearing, the flaws of the present law were laid bare along with the loopholes in the system.

He said those involved in the SCI, especially its chair Yeo Yang Poh, geotechnical expert Gue See Sew and engineering academic from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Geotechnical and Transportation Department Ramli Nasir, should be roped in when framing the amendments.

Lee also said the panel of experts who sat in the SCI were PhD holders in engineering, environment and other fields and would be able to offer valuable input.

He said Malaysia should look to Hong Kong which has a special Geotechnical Engineering Office with over 3,000 people tasked to observe, regulate and enforce safety measures on hill slopes.

He said Hong Kong officials even tagged their hill slopes and frequently monitored them.

“It is a question of life, take your time. Talk to the folks at the SCI. They have vast experience in handling hill slope problems,” he said.

Lee also urged the federal government to take a cue from the successful town hall sessions on Penang’s highway projects by having another a town hall on the amendment to the law concerning hill slopes.