State inquiry report calls for tighter rules on hill-site construction

The aftermath of the Tanjung Bungah landslide in 2017. (Bernama pic)

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang government has been urged to tighten the rules on hill-site construction in the report by a state inquiry into the 2017 landslide in Tanjung Bungah which saw 11 killed.

The state commission of inquiry (SCI) report released yesterday recommended, among others, that the state government change its 2012 guidelines for hill-site development to ensure that all construction is approved by checking engineers before work begins.

It said an independent checker registered with the Board of Engineers Malaysia should be made compulsory for all development on slopes with a gradient of above 25 degrees.

The report also urged the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) to take firm action against those who begin work without permission.

Work should only be approved once a qualified resident engineer is stationed at the site to monitor the situation, especially for large-scale projects, it said.

“Large projects will require a team of resident engineers. The names and contact particulars of these engineers must be given to MBPP before any work begins,” it added.

It also advised spot checks and surprise visits by the Department of Safety and Health, as well as a review in criteria for issuing stop-work orders to better address dangerous situations.

“The present practice of issuing a stop-work order only for the most serious infringements, and often only after a disaster has happened, cannot be tolerated any longer.”

Yesterday, the SCI said the Tanjung Bungah landslide was caused by the negligence of its consultant engineers who ignored three landslides prior to the one in 2017.

The commission urged the attorney-general to charge the engineer in charge of the Granito apartment project, Khoo Koon Tai, under Section 304A of the Penal Code with causing death by negligence, an offence which carries a two-year jail term and/or fine.

The landslide on Oct 21, 2017, saw the collapse of a 10m section of an artificial hill slope beside the construction site of a condominium project near the Tunku Abdul Rahman College campus.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the state government will hold a high-powered meeting, chaired by state executive councillor Jagdeep Singh Deo, to look into the recommendations given by the SCI.
Chow said it would also review its 2012 guidelines on hill site development, he said during a press conference today.