Bukit Relau hill-top destruction: Penang Forum writes to MPPP

The destruction of the Bukit Relau hill-top is not the first time such “in-the-face” flouting of planning laws has occurred. There is a breakdown in the monitoring and enforcement process in the Council. To prevent a recurrence of this, the Penang Forum Steering Committee now demands that a thorough inquiry be made by an independent committee (majority consisting of outsiders) of the internal and external failures of the procedures in the Council that led to this incident.

8 July 2013
Yang Di-Pertua,
Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang
Level 5, KOMTAR
10000 George Town
Penang

Dear Dato,

ILLEGAL HILL CLEARING IN PENANG – BUKIT RELAU AKA ‘BOTAK HILL’

The Steering Committee of the Penang Forum would like to commend the MPPP for the ‘Stop Work’ Order on the illegal hill cutting at Bukit Relau and also to taking legal action against the perpetrator of this illegal act. It is shocking to Penangites that hill clearing at this height and of this massive extent can be conducted in full view and over a lengthy period, without alarm bells going off and urgent action being taken.

WHY? Why did it require a public outcry before any action was taken? Anyone looking from any western facing window of Komtar from the 9th floor upwards would have seen this shocking clearing taking place over many months. It would appear that the action was not just illegal but blatant and in total flagrant disregard for the law. The clearing is total and unmitigated, it does not leave anything standing, not a tree, a bush or a rock; top soil has been washed away. The bulldozers have relentlessly bared the entire top of the hill, brazenly, not hiding their actions from anyone. Why?

RE-ZONING We have come to learn that the area has been re-zoned as ‘residential luxury bungalows’ under ‘special projects’, thus allowing the developers to believe they could ravage as they please. The Special Projects above 250 ft exemption was meant for public interest infrastructure projects, most definitely not for luxury bungalows for the wealthy and profit opportunities for developers.

THE HILLS The hills of Penang are environmentally sensitive areas. The environmental and social implications of such a mammoth project on Bukit Relau are very severe including deforestation of water catchment forests resulting in landslides, flooding, impacts on water supply etc. The impacts would extend beyond the immediate area to the downstream areas, affecting several hundreds of communities and the general public.

DETERRENCE The question being discussed publicly now is will the MPPP take into account public interest in pushing for a deterrent sentence or a mere financial penalty that only seems to embolden developers to continue to flout the laws. Landowners/developers responsible should be blacklisted and no application from them should be approved for at least five year so that those who want to flout the law will think twice.

C.A.T. We appeal to the MPPP and the State not to be satisfied with ‘too little, too late’. These kinds of shameless and scandalous actions must not be allowed, particularly by those seen to have ‘connections’. Undesirable and unlawful precedents must NOT be set. As much as re-zoning can be done, they can also be withdrawn. We look to our leaders to show us the kind of moral righteousness that we so rightfully have come to respect them for.

COMPETENCY – ACCOUNTABILITY – TRANSPARENCY?

The Steering Committee
Penang Forum
8 July 2013

Cc:
Chief Minister
State Exco
All ADUNs
All MPPP Councillors
Press and Newsportals

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