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Activist slams Penang govt over definition of 'flat land'

GEORGE TOWN: Outspoken former Penang Island City councillor Dr Lim Mah Hui (pix) has criticised the state government for claiming that the Tanjung Bungah project where a landslide killed 11 people on Oct 21 was located on “flat land”.
Dr Lim said Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, his deputy Dr P. Ramasamy and exco member Jagdeep Singh all claimed that the project was not located on a hillslope but on “flat land”.
“Even the President of the Institute of Engineers Dr Tan Yean Chin echoed the politicians’ claim that the Tanjung Bungah development is not on a hillslope but on the land adjacent to the hillslope,” Dr Lim said in a statement titled The Dangers of Half-Truths.
He questioned the politicians' definition of "flat land" and whether they were confusing the usage of  "low land" (land below 76m above sea level) with that of "flat land."
"When the politicians visited the tragedy site, they saw construction on flat land.
"Did they not know that the flat land they saw was created by cutting into a pre-existing natural slope so that the new 'flat land' is now adjacent to a man-made slope that has been made more unstable and risky?
"It was precisely the newly cut slope adjacent to the building site on flat land that collapsed and buried 11 people,” Dr Lim said.
Dr Lim also questioned Jagdeep's statement on Oct 23 that the state government had not approved any development projects on hillslopes above 76m since 2008.
He said Jagdeep had compared the zero approvals for projects on land above 76m by the current administration to the 28 high-rise schemes allowed to build on land above 76m by the previous administration.
"The public would like the government officials to explain how the above statements corroborate with the information provided by state exco member Chow Kon Yeow to the Penang State Assembly in November 2015 in his reply to questions raised about residential development projects on hill land, that is land above 76m, and/or on hill slopes with gradient exceeding 25 degree,” he asked.
Dr Lim said based on statistics provided by Chow, 56 projects were approved between 2008 until September 2015 (six were approved in 2008 and 50 from 2009 onwards (on land above 76m).
"It may be that some of these projects were initially approved before 2008.
"However, every planning permission is valid for one year and has to be renewed annually, at which time the council has the right to impose new conditions or decline re-approval.
“Jagdeep should explain whether all the above projects were below 76m?  Even if they are, what was crucially left out was that the projects could be below 76m but with hillslopes of greater than 25 degrees.
“Are these not sensitive hill land or hillslopes with high risks? The officials should not play with words as lives have been lost.
“The landslide that occurred near Lembah Permai on Oct 21 was on land below 76m and ostensibly on slopes of less than 25 degrees, as it was categorized as class 2 land (with slopes of between 15 to 25 degrees).
“If such calamities can happen in class 2 land, what more with class 3 land?" Dr Lim said.
Dr Lim said residents from Sungai Ara to Paya Terubong to Miami Green have vocally demonstrated their concerns and demands which he hoped the government would heed.
“If politicians continue to be defensive and insist that they did not approve any projects above 76m and that the Tanjung Bungah project was built on flat land despite facts to the contrary, does it bode well for our future?” he asked.
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