Better safe than sorry

One commentator in the last post, wassup,  asked for my views on hill slope development.

I am not an expert, so I cannot really give views on the safety of such development.

However, as a person who has lived more than half a century long, , I can tell you that the worse thing that can happen to a person is to lose a dear one in a tragedy. The next worse thing is to lose your property that you stay in.

To lose a dear one is a loss that cannot be replaced, unlike physical thing such as a building. But having said that, losing a property a person stays in is also a nightmare.

A property is a person’s greatest asset and perhaps saving. Some people struggle a whole life just to put a roof over his or her family. SOme may still owe financial institution lots of money and even when the house he stays in is declared to be unsafe for occupation, the banks are not going to be charitable and write off the loan. He still has to pay the monthly loan repayment. At the same time, he needs to source for a new home, meaning getting more loans and deeper in debt.

So it is really a nightmare for a person either to lose a dear one and  to a lesser extent, to lose his or her property.

Even layman can tell you that hill side development needs to be thoroughly investigated for stability before any projects should be given the greenlight.

Ideally, there should be an independent body comprising of engineers ,  geologists and so on to vet on a proposed hillside project, and the environmental impacts such project would have on the surrounding houses and apartments.

Malaysia has plenty of land still. Why risk building on hill side when we can build on flatter land? The answer is ‘greed”.

The developers will tell you that those hills near to prestigious residential areas command a much higher premium and much higher profits than to build houses far away from town on flat land.

The developers will pressure the authority to give approval, and given the level of corruption in the country, I am sure some of the development may not have met the necessary safety standard.

But then, even a house built safely 10 years ago on such a slope may not be safe 10 years later, as environment changes, and nature changes too. Soil moves. rainfall may increase in that area. Water loosens things up over the years. There is so much of uncertainties.

So , a permanent solution is ban projects on hillslope with more than certain degree of gradient.

For those less than the threshold gradient, the views of an independent panel of experts , as mentioned above, must be sought before an approval can be given. The panel will be liable for any problems later on, so they would have to be very professional. Yearly review of such projects must be carried out to determine any change in the safety level.

For consumers, they should be careful when buying a house on a hillslope. If there is no demand, there will be no such development and there will be no such tragedy.

Now, coming back to the hillside development in Penang that the commentator asked me for my views.

I really cannot answer. What I can say is that there must be an independent panel to reviews all such projects, not only in Penang, but other states as well. Any projects that are deemed to be dangerous must be stopped, and the people must be given an answer why how such projects were approved in the first place.

In the past 2 months, I have gone upPenang a few times, in fact more than what i did in the whole of last 3 years. I think Penang simply has too much development.

Maybe it is time to shift the development to the mainland. To do that , we need a second link or even a third link in future. There is also the possibility of developing the western side of the island. What we need is just to have good road system to cut down on travelling time, and such areas can be opened up.

Malaysians, unfortunately, have short memory. Very soon, the whole episode will be forgotten. Very soon the push for banning hillside development will cease. People’s attention will focus on other things that crop up.

So the important thing is , while the iron is still hot, we need to push for a law that bans such development on a hill slope more than certain gradient, as well as push for the establishment  of  an independent expert panel to be set up in every state and township, to approve as well as monitor the safety of such projects.



10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. CYC
    Dec 11, 2008 @ 16:48:09

    Take away the immunity of those responsible parties irrespective of whether they are private entity or government agencies. Enforce the rule without fear and favour. That is the only way.It looks simple yet so impossible in Bolehland.

    Look at those idiots who were part of the system that approved those housing scheme years after the Highland Tower suddenly become hero in criticizing the present state government while conveniently forgot their evil deeds.

    We have the large civil service personnel but strangely don’t have enough qualified engineers to evaluate and monitor development projects at local councils. What a stupid set up that aim to be world class as they religiously chant at every launch of whatever new system or scheme.

    What the hack all those politicians wants to be in-charge of such technical matter that they know nuts about it. Let the technical expert do their job as we don’t need politicians to talk rubbish by reading pre-prepared text.

    Lets be humane and don’t let greed rob off innocent life.


  2. nick
    Dec 11, 2008 @ 17:30:14

    The rich and very rich will only want something that the common person cannot possess. It may be a RM 1 Mn watch or the 20-carat gemstone. It may be the sporty merc or the porsche. The Myvi is for the student boy-boy. It is the same with the hillside penthouse or bungalow. Who wants to live with the hoi polloi when you can be living with the gods in the hills? I believe many Hokkien lang in Penang and elsewhere wants their home to face the sea and the backyard to overlook into the hills. My opinion is leave it to the buyer. If he or she can afford it, it is their choice. A landslide or an earthquake is an Act of God and has nothing to do with anything. The government should only concern itself with negligence, nothing else. If developers have acted within the laws, no further blame should go to them. Banning hillside development is a losing proposition. Might as well banned Genting highlands!


  3. Meng
    Dec 12, 2008 @ 01:05:15

    When they bought the bungalows its a package deal with all he luxury, comfort,pain and death, landslide included. So why complain the government is at fault.

    No buyers no builders!!!


  4. A true Malaysian
    Dec 12, 2008 @ 12:15:13

    When this kind of thing happened, people is fast to blame on God by saying that it is an ‘Act of God’. But, all these while, my understanding is that God is merciful, powerful & compassionate. So, can I regard God as cruel & not compassionate in this case? Is it fair to interpret that way? Is it fair to blame God on whatever disaster that we encounter?

    As a human, a layman, we should perform our duty with the utmost care. So, for those who involve in readying the buildings, from initial stage until completion, were they doing their utmost to ensure the buildings were safe for occupation? That is the question that the authorities need to ask and found out the answers before blaming on God.

    It is definitely not the fault of the house buyers for buying the properties. When someone commented ‘why you so stupid to buy the house’, I felt very angry even though I am not the owner.

    The authorities should set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry to find out the truths. Comments such as ‘people never learned’, to me, is unnecessary.


  5. irika
    Dec 14, 2008 @ 13:33:57

    Disagreed with Meng to blame the buyers, how many buyers are geology expert on hill slope?? they (buyer, or gen. public) trusted the govt too much, if govt can give green light for developers to build n issue CF (cert of fitness for occupancy) upon completion, they trust it is safe!
    So, still govt should be blame!


  6. jeff
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 01:44:48

    Bolehland crank out so many half-past six engineers from MARA, UTM and third class local university, see how long these half-past six buildings can stand? your guess is as good as mine.


  7. wassup
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 12:25:10

    Buyer should bear some responsibility. When Highland Towers fell there shouldn’t be any more demand for property in such/similar area. People should start moving out and not continue to populate that area. And you definitely don’t have to be a geologist to read that sign.

    As for Penang, Koh Tsu Koon should know better than to allowed massive development in Hillside area. His house is also in Tanjong Bungah. How is he going to face his neighbour every morning?


  8. A true Malaysian
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 15:00:12


    You are right here if the ‘seller’ observed full ethics and exercising ‘utmost care’.

    If not, the rule of ‘buy at your own risk’ should not be applied.

    If you are one of the owner of properties in Bukit Antarabangsa, will you have the similar view? Bother to share with us here?


  9. wassup
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 10:37:07

    It’s quite difficult to trust wholly an organisation that thrive on profit ( I don’t even trust EPL no more) to be ethical and therefore I’d say that buyer have to bear SOME responsibility when it comes to wanting a hill view properties and by the way everything is buy at your own ‘calculated’ risk, everything.

    That is also why you are made to sign or initial on hundreds of legal document everytime you buy or finance a property although we know nuts about the details in those fine print.

    Yes, if I’m the owner of Bkt Antarabangsa I’d still bear SOME responsibility for my calculated risk. But blaming and taking lagal action is still an alternative.

    Like they say when you buy a property, it’s about location, location and location , not contractor or government. Those latter two don’t care much until LHDN time.

    The owner is still the owner of Bkt Antarabangsa. Ask Gomen to buy from owner and turn it to something more eco frinedly is also another win win deal than to always want pampasan from tax payers money cos everytime you want pampasan bear in mind that its not badawi or Najib’s money but the rakyats.


  10. jeff
    Dec 17, 2008 @ 03:01:40

    It is not only the fine prints is near impossible for home buyer to read unless you always bring along a magnifier, it is full of legal jargon that only an attorney can decipher the term of contract, and often time is restricted to require buyer to sign immediately while visiting the developer office, buyer you are screw!!!!


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