Home CLR Opinion VoiceOut: Penang Landslide, Who’s To Be Blamed?!

VoiceOut: Penang Landslide, Who’s To Be Blamed?!

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Last year on 21st October  2017, a devastating landslide took 11 lives. The incident occurred at a construction site at Lengkok Lembah Permai, Tanjung Bungah.

However, that wasn’t the first time such a tragedy happened.

Chronology of landslides in Penang. Source: Malaysiakini

Following the aftermath of the Lengkok Lembah Permai incident, then Penang Chief Minister – who is the current Finance Minister – Lim Guan Eng announced that a Commission of Inquiry would be set up to investigate the cause of the worksite accident.

However, curiously enough, no cause has been ascertained till today.

Source: Free Malaysia Today
The president of the Malaysian Institution of Engineers strongly opinionated that the project had fully complied with the regulatory requirements, based on his observations :
  • the Tanjung Bungah Development was not built on a hill slope, rather on the land adjacent to the hill slope”.
  • the project involved “slopes with a gradient of about 20 degrees”, classifying the site as a Category 2 slope (15 to 25 degrees) and thus categorizing it as low land (Tanah Rendah) and not hill land (Tanah Bukit).
  • the land contour of the project area varied between 18 and 40 meters, which is well within acceptable limits.

Sadly, almost a year later, on 19 October 2018, ANOTHER major landslide occurred at a Penang construction site at Jalan Bukit Kukus, Paya Terubong.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

However, unlike the 2017 incident, the developers of the construction site at Jalan Bukit Kukus had prior warning.

In a report by The Star, it’s stated that the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) had asked the management to cease work after an earlier incident.

Penang DOSH director Mohd Rosdee Yaakob stated that;

We found that many of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) were not followed and we told the contractor that work could not go on.

We also told the contractor to explain the procedures that were in place to prevent such an incident.

However, we received reports the following day that work was going on, including at the site of the landslide,

Rescuers recovered 9 bodies from the rubble before calling off the search late Tuesday (23rd October 2019)

Following the initial reporting of the landslide, public outcry was swift and furious. 

The latest tragedy struck a nerve and within hours, concerned netizens began voicing out their anxiety – some constructive and some critical.

As a Penangite myself, I must admit that Penang has turned into one of the most popular tourist spots in Malaysia. And I’m proud of that!

This couldn’t be done without the help of the government conserving and refurbishing the phenomenal heritage sites for tourist to appreciate.

Does this seem familiar?

However, I’ve learnt that in recent years, locals have been voicing out their dissatisfaction. In particular, the constant land-abuse that have been changing the landscape of our once-beautiful island.

This made me wonder, to what extent is development considered enough on our Island? And how do we tackle the problem?

Should we just focus on the regulation governing these major projects, coupled with a strict compliance issue?

Or do we just completely stop any hillslope development projects in Penang? 

As Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) honorary secretary R. Meenakshi put it;

We have lost faith in how the authorities handle all this. They continue to allow such tragedies to happen.

In my view, rather than sensationalizing the matter, why don’t we provide crucial feedback that helps. As the former does not help at all.

Nevertheless, we hope the authorities would get to the root of the problem quickly.

For now, all we can do is pray for those who are still missing.