State committed to protecting hill land

I REFER to the statement by the Tanjung Bungah Residents' Association which welcomes the proposal by the Penang state government to set up a State Commission of Inquiry to investigate the Oct 21 landslide at Lengkok Lembah Permai.

The association states that it is perplexed how the MBPP (Penang Island City Council) had in 2012, approved construction of 600 units comprising high-rise apartments and bungalows on hill lands covering 80 acres which are above 76m above sea level of which, about 43% are on slopes exceeding a gradient of 25 degrees for the Sunway City project in Sungei Ara, Penang.

The MBPP relied on the 2009 Guidelines for "Special Projects" to allow the Sungei Ara project.

The statement expressed shock "to learn that the State Authority had in 2011 approved an application by the developer to remove the 'hill land' status of the lands under the Land Conservation Act 1960".

These actions, it said, defy the state government's stance that hill lands must be protected.

I wish to clarify that:

a. The Sungei Ara development approval was nullified by the Appeals Board;

b. However, the High Court overturned the Appeals Board decision and restored the approval given to the developer.

c. The residents have now lodged an appeal to the Court of Appeal to restore the Appeals Board's decision and to reject the approval given to the developer.

d. The state government and the MBPP have assured the residents that they will be supporting the residents in their appeal.

This assurance is not only truly appreciated by the affected Sungei Ara residents but, more importantly, lends credence to the statement by the state government that it is committed to protecting hill lands in Penang.

Datuk Dr Gurdial Singh Nijar
Counsel for the Residents of Sungai Ara