I was very surprised and sad reading the newspapers yesterday covering Datuk Ir Md Zin’s press conference with regard to hillside development. It seems that the Public Works Ministry has now agreed to allow hillside development but won’t allow the ‘tip fill’ method for the rectification works on the slope. He also rationalised this by saying that there was a need to allow hillside development as the country needed more housing development to meet the demand for houses. And when an individual started questioning him with regard to the landslide incident at Bukit Antarabangsa, the Minister admitted that the report not been discussed at cabinet level. (STAR, 15 February 2009).
There are a few things I would like to point out to the Minister and the Works Ministry. First and foremost, I agree that population is increasing, especially in cities like Kuala Lumpur, Penang and a few others. I also agree the migration rate from rural areas to Kuala Lumpur is still high and continuous. Lest us not forget about the yearly influx of university, polytechnic graduates into the market. There is a serious need to ensure adequate housing for the increasing population who come to Kuala Lumpur to work as labourers, executives, middle managers and government servants. These people would most probably earn from a low RM1,000 a month to a high of RM5,000 to RM7,000 a month for the more experienced ones.
However, I doubt these people, even those earning RM7,000 a month with a family ( four is a standard statistic – husband, wife and two children) could afford these”hillside development” houses which run into millions of Ringgit per house. Is the Works Ministry going to ensure that to meet the ever increasing population in Kuala Lumpur, it will order the hillside developers who have spent millions of Ringgit and are hoping to sell each house at probably RM1 million at the very minimum, sell these houses at RM50,000 to RM300,000 to meet the demand from the labourers, junior executives, middle manager and government servants? If the Ministry can do that, then I can understand the justification of allowing hillside development.
However, I am very sure that these hillside developments will be built by the rich for the rich.
In order to build more houses for the ever increasing population, I would like to suggest that we decentralise. Go outside Kuala Lumpur. There is still a lot of land off Kajang, Bangi and Nilai for example. The same goes for upnorth at Rawang and Bukit Beruntung. All these places are within an hour’s drive into KL. More so, in decentralising, we can have satellite cities to Kuala Lumpur. Resources such as water, sewerage, electricity and such amenities would also be better managed and not strained compared if too concentrated in Kuala Lumpur.
And I am sure we can build affordable homes for all in these areas.
As for hillside developments, even if we were to go ahead with it, I want to see more than just an announcement. Where are the studies? What could and should be done to cure the slopes that could meet the stringent standards that should be set? I was told DS Najib said that the Works Ministry should study how hillside development is done in Hong Kong. So where are the findings of the study? Have the Works Ministry officials even gone to Hong Kong and discussed with their counterparts on this issue?
And what has changed in terms of standard, regulations, requirements, laws and method to address hillside development problems that has warranted the Works Ministry to allow back such developments? Is it enough by just saying that the Ministry will not allow tip fill method anymore? So what method is allowed? At what gradient is it considered safe? And what type of soil? I was told Bukit Antarabangsa area is a water catchment area, meaning the soil is loose in structure. Would any method or whatever done to the soil be safe? Should hillside developments even be allowed at all at these sensitive areas?
Where are the revised laws and regulations to ensure no one else dies because of human error? I want all these answered at the very minimum before any such developments be allowed.
Based on Star’s report yesterday, the landslide report had not been discussed at cabinet level. Was the decision made only at Works Ministry level?
I hope those responsible will act responsibly. As I mentioned in my first posting on the Bukit Antarabangsa tragedy, what if the next landslide victim is a loved one or someone close? And what if the landslide occurred because of human error, carelessness and greed? I pray that won’t happen to any of us.
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