Group warns repeat of Penang fatal landslides over hill-clearing works

What is left of a part of Mt Erskine, following earthworks in this photograph taken from the Mont Residence Condominium in Tanjug Tokong. (SAM pic)

GEORGE TOWN: Penang-based environmental pressure group Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) has warned that extensive hill-clearing activities near Tanjung Tokong would pose a danger to a condominium tower in the area, and could see a repeat of fatal landslides in the state in the last two years.

The group said the hill-cutting of Mount Erskine took place on state government land where “mitigation works” were reportedly being carried out.

“We are very concerned that with many parts of the slopes being bare, with this rainy season, serious soil erosion will result, contributing to landslides and flash floods in the area,” SAM president Meenakshi Raman said.

“We are very worried about a repeat of the Tanjung Bungah landslide tragedy and the Bukit Kukus incident in Paya Terubong which led to the death of workers working in the area,” she said in a statement.

Meenakshi urged the authorities, including the state government and the Penang Island City Council (MBPP), to explain the ongoing works.

She said it was understood that the works began as early as September 2018, based on information provided to Penang Hills Watch (PHW).

“We understand that PHW was informed that ‘mitigation works’ were being carried out at the site, which is on land belonging to the state government.

“SAM calls on the state authority and the MBPP to explain what these mitigation works are and how come such steep slopes are being cut and cleared?”

She said the state policy under the Penang Structure Plan was not to allow earthworks on lands above 250 feet or slopes which exceed a 25-degree gradient.

“Given that this is public land, we are alarmed that such hill-cutting and clearing is going on,” she said.

FMT has contacted state Public Works Committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari and the MBPP for comment.