GEORGE TOWN: WHAT a year it has been for Penang. Issues relating to parking coupons, banning foreigners as cooks at hawker stalls and uncovering the dirty truth behind the ever-popular roti Benggali hogged the headlines for the state this year.
In January, Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) did away with the old meter and attendant-based parking system to a coupon system.
This system was of course, not spared from teething problems. This mainly led to irresponsible parties selling coupons at higher prices to take advantage of a shortage in coupons.
Some coupons were also not scratchable, a problem the council blamed on excess wax on the tickets.
Later in February and the ensuing months, the issue of Bukit Relau and Bukit Kukus gained traction, as the hilltops were cleared illegally by landowners.
Barely a year after the land clearing in Bukit Relau, around 3km away, the latest assault on the last few green lungs remaining in Penang angered environmentalists, the state administration and residents nearby in the Taman Terubong Jaya housing estate.
Bukit Kukus, some 400m above sea level, was in a sorry state with bald patches visible from afar.
The culprit was a holding company that had companies under it which were linked to agricultural activities.
A stop-work order was issued last year when the hill clearing was first spotted.
A second stop-work order to the company was given months later when the company failed to take remedial action on the bald patch.
Later in June, a 30-year wait for residents of Kampung Sungai Gelugor ended when a slip road to connect their village to the main road was completed.
They heaved a sigh of relief when a property owner demolished an abandoned house which had for a long time blocked the pathway.
The new tarred road section brought cheer to road users in Tingkat Sungai Glugor 5 who had to take a long detour.
Previously, residents along the street were forced to use narrow back lanes to move in and out of the neighbourhood.
Residents of Island Glades complained of frequent break-ins in August, citing poor lighting at the Cangkat Delima 1 and Lorong Delima 18 as the cause of the problem.
These two areas are poorly lit and located close to a hillside where criminals are said to hide in bushes, before targeting homes around the area.
It was learnt that there have been more than 10 cases of break-ins within months, all believed to be foreign thieves taking refuge on Bukit Gambier.
Police increased patrols in the area.
Later on in the same month, a popular spot for hikers in Island Glades near Cangkat Tembaga made the headlines when authorities found a hidden space where construction waste was dumped illegally.
The issue was highlighted after residents expressed their fear of diseases spreading and complained about foul smells.
The landowner was fined for causing a nuisance and ordered to clean up.
The year also saw the state government banning foreigners as cooks at hawker food stall in Penang from working.
This issue was possibly the most talked about in the state and dominated the headlines.
The initial consensus showed 12,000 people agreeing with the state.
The initial survey by local authorities showed that most prefer locals to prepare popular street food such as char koay teow and laksa.
The state government announced two months ago that the ban would come into effect on Jan 1, 2016.
In what is deemed the most skin crawling discovery of the year, rat droppings were found in a leading bakery in Datuk Keramat which produces the popular roti Benggali.
The state health authorities sealed the outlet off for two weeks after the discovery.
Health inspectors also found two trolleys with stacks of dough beside the toilet.
To add to their horror, Northeast District Health Department officials found human hair in a container with oil.
The oil was used to knead the dough.
The raiding party also found to their disgust several workers throwing excess dough on the wet floor instead of collecting them in a bin.
Checks later revealed that the premises was devoid of bins for the disposal of unwanted food waste or other materials.