Penang Forum deeply regrets the tragic loss of four lives in the 25 June 2019 landslide at the Lost Paradise Resort, Tanjung Bungah.
In a span of less two years, Penang Island has seen three deadly landslide incidents -the 21 October 2017 Granito landslide, the 19 October 2018 Bukit Kukus landslide, and now this.
A total of 24 lives have been lost as a result of these three tragedies. These tragedies highlight the fragility of slopes in Penang and the extreme caution that needs to be taken when dealing with them.
We note that the land works done at the site of this landslide are illegal as the landowner conducted work without obtaining a proper permit.
The Penang Island City Council (MBPP) in its response says that it has a team to monitor illegal construction work, but in this case “the construction work was on a slope below the road and hidden” and thus not noticeable.
This would mean that despite MBPP having a team to detect such illegal construction cases, the council was unable to detect this case which went ‘off the radar’ as a result of its obscure location.
This forces us to ask, how many more illegal construction works are in progress on slopes around the state and does the MBPP have sufficient monitoring and enforcement capacity to detect these cases and act on them?
More public awareness needed
This latest landslide incident again highlights the need for more public awareness of slope safety and the need for landowners to know their responsibilities in maintaining slopes as well as alerting the authorities when tell-tale signs of slope instability and erosion appear.
In this Lost Paradise Resort landslide case, the landowner reportedly was aware of erosion on the slope but he addressed this by conducting land works to build a retention wall on his own, without obtaining a prior permit from MBPP.
However, the slope is located at the brink of the main road leading from Tanjung Bungah to Batu Ferringhi, which is under the jurisdiction of the Public Works Department (JKR). JKR has found that it was the construction work that resulted in the slope giving way and causing the landslide.
It is imperative in the aftermath of this landslide, that the Penang state government makes it clear to landowners the responsibilities they have as ‘slope owners’ and the right channels which need to be used in order to report cases of erosion and slope instability.
Investigations, monitoring and enforcement also needed
We urge the state to launch thorough investigations into the 25 June landslide tragedy and to identify those who might be charged with negligence. We urge the authorities to call for explanations, open up records and impose the maximum penalties as a deterrent to prevent such needless loss of lives.
There is a need for more comprehensive monitoring and enforcement, especially in identifying such cases of illegal construction on slopes. Tougher laws and penalties are needed to punish errant land owners who flout the law so that such incidents are never repeated.
It bears reiteration that this latest incident exposes the dangers of development on slopes, especially when cut – regardless whether legal or illegal.
We call upon the state to review its policies, guidelines and standard operating procedures in relation to hillside development.
A moratorium on all slope development and highway projects over the hills should be imposed, until such a time when the state has a done a comprehensive check on all hill slopes, taken remedial actions and completed hill slope rehabilitation.
Penang Forum steering committee