KUALA LUMPUR: With the massive landslide of 2009 still fresh in their memory, residents of Taman Amansiara cringe each time they hear of plans to degazette part of the Bukit Lagong Forest Reserve in Gombak for a housing project.
While the degazettement of the 28.3ha land has yet to be approved, the residents fear that anymore development in the area may cause another major disaster.
In November 2009, a landslide brought down tonnes of earth along an 80m stretch of Jalan Rawang near Taman Amansiara, cutting off the road from traffic headed northbound for a month.
A conservationist and resident of Taman Amansiara, Ange Tan, said even the Taman Amansiara townhouses were not supposed to be built.
“When they cleared this area to build the townhouses, the soil which was dug out was dumped on another location along the highway. When it rains, the soil is washed down.
“Our housing area is built on a steep slope. If a landslide or soil erosion were to happen, we would be the first to be hit,” she said.
Recalling the 2009 landslide, Tan said although there were no casualties, many Taman Amansiara residents were still traumatised by the incident.
“The government (then) didn’t do much to ensure that the landslide would not happen again. The only thing they did was to put a tarp over the landslide area.
“Today, if you drive past the area, the tarp is still visible. This is 10 years after the landslide happened. Now you see shrubs growing over the tarp,” she said.
When she discovered in November that more housing development had been planned for the area, she said she knew she “had to do something”.
“I did some research and found that this project was approved some time back in 2003.
“Although I am unable to find out why the project was halted for almost 16 years now, my question is: why have they decided to pursue it all of a sudden despite so many objections?”
Tan led a petition signing campaign in December and has collected more than 1,000 signatures to date.
She also questioned the need for the Selangor State Development Corporation (PKNS) to propose more housing projects in the area when two projects have already been abandoned.
“One of the projects is the Selayang Spring Condominium which is still abandoned,” she said, adding that this was revealed by Selayang MP William Leong during a town hall session.
“Another is a project called Templer Hills, which started in 2011. The proposed development was for 40 bungalows with amenities. But they completed the project with 65 units without amenities. So until today, these bungalow units have yet to get their certificate of fitness (CF) by the local council.”
Tan said although the Selayang Spring Condominium was declared an abandoned project in April 2014, the classification was lifted by the National Housing Department. It was then placed on a list of projects to be revived.
However, there is no sign that work is continuing there, she said.
Tan said according to Selangor Environment, Green Technology and Consumer Affairs Committee chairman Hee Loy Sian, a “replacement” forest reserve in Broga, Semenyih, would be gazetted instead.
She said Hee had been quoted as saying “it is also larger than the plot proposed for excisement (removal by cutting off) in Bukit Lagong”.
Hee also reportedly said Selangor was the only state to hold a public hearing before any part of the forest reserve is degazetted, and the process of its replacement must be concurrently carried out with the excising of the land.
A public hearing was held on Monday but the proceedings were off-limits to the press.
It was learnt that the authorities would deliberate on the objections submitted by the residents and bring the matter up to the state executive council.
However, Tan said the residents did not want any development to take place in the forest reserve.
“Any development on that piece of land will post a threat to the surrounding housing area and wildlife.”
She also warned that the Bukit Lagong Forest Reserve serves as a buffer for the conservation of the 544ha FRIM (Forest Research Institute Malaysia) campus, which was gazetted under the National Heritage Act 2005 in 2009 and declared a national heritage in 2012.
“If they carry out any development, they will be building on the buffer zone,” she said.
Another resident, HM Choong, said the area surrounding the Bukit Lagong Forest Reserve was not suitable for development.
“Remember what happened to Highland Towers in 1993?
It was built on unstable soil. If this development were to proceed, it will affect us.
“When you dig in one area, the soil will loosen in other areas. When I heard about this, I immediately thought about the Highland Towers incident.”
Forty-eight people were killed when one of the three blocks of 13-storey apartments collapsed following a landslide on Dec 11, 1993.
“The incident is still vivid in our minds. We need to pay attention to the environmental issues in this area,” Choong said.
This is the fourth time that the Selangor government has held a public hearing before the degazettement of a forest reserve since the Public Inquiry (Selangor) Rules 2014 was put in place.
In 2014, a hearing was held on the degazettement of 106.65ha of the Ampang Forest Reserve for the construction of the East Klang Valley Expressway.
In 2016, two hearings were held on the proposals to degazette 30ha of the Sungai Puteh North and South Forest Reserves for the Sungai Besi-Ulu Klang Highway project, and 3.4ha of the Bukit Cherakah Forest Reserve for the Damansara-Shah Alam Elevated Expressway project.