Longer jail term may deter illegal land clearing, says group

PENANG Citizens Chant Group (Chant) has urged for more stringent rules to deter landowners or developers from clearing hills and land illegally.

Its adviser Yan Lee (pic) said 34 illegal land clearing incidents were found in the state but only five were brought to court.

“The judiciary should consider longer jail term and barring of planning permissions for developers who illegally clear sensitive forests.

“Paying fines is just a slap on the wrist and they usually escape by just paying them.

“But with longer jail sentences or denying the developers planning permission for the next 20 years, it will be a deterrent and make them toe the line,” he told a press conference yesterday.

Lee was referring to the illegal development taking place in Bukit Laksamana, a water catchment for the Teluk Bahang Dam, despite two stop-work orders being issued by the Penang government.

He said the developer was clearly adamant.

“Why the need to issue another stop-work order? The new order is just for window dressing.

“Under the Local Government Act, the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) has the right to enter the site and carry out remedial work with the cost being handed to the landowner,” he explained.

Chant adviser Prof Dr Jimmy Lim, who was also present, added that the state government should get serious on illegal land clearing and preserve the state’s natural heritage.

“The highlight of Penang’s water is its quality as most of it comes from springs.

“If all the jungles and hills are cleared under the name of development, are we going to feed our children and parents with polluted water?” he asked.

Dr Lim said the elected representative should start thinking for future generations.

It was reported on June 12 that more than 2ha of land had been cleared of vegetation.

It is believed that plans are afoot to build a 36-chalet resort in the area located 200m above sea level.

When reporters visited the area with Teluk Bahang assemblyman Datuk Shah Headan Ayoob Hussain Shah, they found some parts of the land cemented and three partially completed buildings.

State Local Government Committee chair man Chow Kon Yeow was reported as saying that the MBPP had been directed to tear down the illegal structures.

In a statement, the council said it did not receive any development proposal for the site on the hill.

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