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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Bukit Kukus road project illegal, says consumer group

The Bukit Kukus project site which was hit by a landslide in October last year.
GEORGE TOWN: A consumer group today hit out at the Bukit Kukus elevated road project, just days after the authorities lifted the stop-work order imposed on construction at the site following a landslide which claimed the lives of nine workers last October.
In a statement, Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) president SM Mohamed Idris said the project was “clearly” in violation of the country’s environmental laws.
He said no environmental impact study had been done before the project took off.
Rubbishing the government’s claim that an environmental impact assessment (EIA) was not needed for the project, Iris said this was in fact a mandatory exercise under current state laws.
The RM530 million Bukit Kukus road project will see the construction of a 5km elevated road that goes through the hills of Paya Terubong and Relau.
The road, constructed by the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) and two private developers, is expected to be completed next year.
Idris said under the Penang Structure Plan 2007 (PSP), any project on a slope of more than 25 degrees or on land situated more than 75m (250 feet) above sea level is prohibited.
The PSP is a layout of policies adopted for infrastructural development in the state.
Idris said this criteria could have been circumvented if the road project was classified as a “special project” of “importance to the government and public” which could not avoid hillside construction.
But even so, he said, the PSP requires that all hillside development have an approved EIA in addition to approval from the state planning committee.
“Given the circumstances, not having an EIA for the Bukit Kukus road was a clear violation of and non-compliance with the PSP.
“The PSP has legal effect as it is under the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 and is a gazetted document.
“Clearly, by not having an EIA done, there has been a non-compliance of the PSP. This is a very serious transgression of the law and guidelines by the authorities themselves,” he said in a statement today.
Idris said while the road project had been given the green light to resume work on Monday, the Penang government should reveal the findings by its special investigation committee which recently concluded its probe.
He added that the chief minister, MBPP and Department of Environment (DoE) owed the people an explanation for the lack of EIA.
“This is too serious a matter and cannot simply be regarded as a worksite tragedy with the blame passed on to the contractors involved in the project.
“The authorities themselves must accept some blame and responsibility for their inaction.”
The Penang government said the DoE had exempted the project from any need for an EIA as the road was classified as a “collector road” by the Public Works Department.
State executive councillor Jagdeep Singh Deo said this was communicated through a letter from the federal-level DoE.
Under the Environmental Quality (Prescribed Activities)(Environmental Impact Assessment) of the Environmental Quality Act 1974, Jagdeep said, expressways and national highways are exempted from EIAs.
In the absence of an EIA, he added, an environmental management plan and erosion and sedimentation control plan had been put in place at the Bukit Kukus site to prevent any unwanted incidents.
Deputy Chief Minister I Ahmad Zakiyuddin Abdul Rahman, the chief investigator for the high-level probe on the Bukit Kukus incident, had said the probe was accessible to the state authorities only, and will not be revealed to the public.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow recently hinted that the Bukit Kukus incident was likely due to problems with “worksite safety”. - FMT

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