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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Bukit Kukus landslide: NGOs want Penang to explain why stop-work order lifted


Two non-governmental organisations have called on the Penang government to disclose the conditions under which work is being allowed to proceed at the site where a landslideoccured last year in Jalan Bukit Kukus, Paya Terubong.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) and the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) have also urged the state to release the findings of its investigations into the landslide, which occurred on Oct 23 last year and claimed nine lives. 
This follows the reported lifting of stop-work orders issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Department and Penang Island City Council (MBPP) on Monday against the project contractor, Syarikat Yuta Sdn Bhd.
"Given that the state had carried out internal investigations on the Oct 17 tragedy, which saw the loss of nine lives, it is vital for the findings to be made public, so that there is transparency in the process," said the president for both NGOs, SM Mohamed Idris in a statement today.
"We would like to know if the relevant authorities are being held accountable for their inaction in relation to the tragedy," added the veteran activist.
"It is also critical to know what measures are being taken and conditions imposed to ensure that there will be no repeat of any untoward incidents once work on the road project commences," Idris stressed.
In October last year, the Penang government had formed a special committee to investigate the incident.
EIA exemption questioned
Mohamed Idris also refuted claims by the authorities that no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report had been needed for the project.
He said CAP had written to Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow, MBPP Mayor Yew Tung Siang, and the Environment Department (DOE) asking how the project had been exempted from such a requirement.
According to state officials, an EIA was not required as this was the view of the DOE and an exemption letter was given, Mohamed Idris said.
"The authorities must clarify why an exemption was given for this project, when the project involves hill lands above 76 metres and slopes exceeding 25 degrees," he demanded.
He was commenting on the road construction project which gained approval from the authorities in 2013.
He pointed to the relevant law that applied then - the Environmental Quality (Prescribed Activities) (Environmental Impact Assessment) Order 1987.
Mohamed Idris added that effective from June 20, 2011, the DOE had a list of ‘Prescribed Activities’ which required Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) reports.
This means that public feedback must be sought on the DEIA for the project prior to any approval given, Mohamed Idris said.
Among the listed projects are: ‘Project involving land clearing where 50 percent of the area or more have slopes exceeding 25 degrees (except quarry).’
"In our view, this is meant to cover any type of project on risky hill slopes," said Mohamed Idris.
"In the case of the Bukit Kukus Road, much of the project involves the clearing of areas which exceed 25 degrees, and regardless of the type of road (whether ‘collector road’ or some other road), a DEIA should have been required," he added.
"It is untrue to say that the law did not require an EIA, when the DOE list of activities required an EIA for a project of this nature.
"Why such an exemption was given by the DOE must be made public by the DOE, " Mohamed Idris added. - Mkini

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