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.