GEORGE TOWN: Penang Hill Watch (PHW) has claimed that it had repeatedly highlighted the Bukit Kukus hill clearing activities since last year.
A landslide hit the Bukit Kukus paired road project site yesterday, killing four construction workers. Three others are feared trapped in the rubble.
PHW coordinator Rexy Prakash Chacko told the NSTP that they had meticulously worked to document hill clearing activities, including Bukit Kukus, to ensure the Penang government can respond and take action to stop, rehabilitate or initiate necessary mitigation measures.
“The Bukit Kukus case was just one which we repeatedly highlighted. We first highlighted it back in 2017 in our first report when the response received to the report was NBK in the area (Notis Berhenti Kerja).
“But in 2018, the work seemed to continue so we recently sent another report in last month, which included this case and highlighted this particular case in three pages with maps and a ground level image.
“The report has been acknowledged and received by state Public Works, Utilities and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari. However, no response to the cases have been received as of yet.
“Zairil and the Penang Island City Council must respond to our PHW report,” he said when contacted.
PHW is an initiative by Penang Forum to provide a platform which keeps watch on activities affecting the hills of Penang.
According to the Penang Forum member,the Bukit Kukus paired road is a major concern for them because this is upstream of Paya Terubong, a major population centre in Penang and not too far away from Relau on the other end of the road.
Rexy said the hill range upon which this road was being constructed was very steep, and raised to its highest at the 418m at Bukit Kukus peak.
He added that from the Google earth images compiled, they could see that the ‘footprint’ or the area of the project was huge and thus a major worry.
“This hill cutting activity for the road is a major reason why much of the floods in Paya Terubong and Relau were muddy last year.
“Yesterday’s landslide incident comes as no surprise, firstly because the steep topography, makes the slopes more suspectible to landslides and secondly because the slope stabilisation works have not been properly carried out in many parts along the road project, which is clearly visible as you look at the slope from Balik Pulau or Paya Terubong.
“We felt that this was a ticking timebomb and did our best to alert the state via our compiled reports to the state as well as postings on our PHW Facebook page which is for the public to see and understand the scale.
“This case also shows that nature does not make a distinction between infrastructure and residential projects. Any disturbance of any kind of our hills only results in catastrophic events like this,” he said, urging the state to have a moratorium on all new hill site projects and thoroughly review any ongoing ones.
Rexy said in the event of this landslide, the state should independently review all mega road projects like the proposed Pan Island Link 1 (PIL1) and the North Coastal Paired Road (NCPR) which goes through sensitive hill areas for the sake of Penang.
“Enough is enough. We can’t have landslides as an annual event in Penang.
“Many Penangites are already living in fear of the stability of slopes behind them. And the state should be accountable for their safety.