Culprits to face the music

Zailril (chequered shirt) listening to a briefing by Penang Hills Watch representative Rexy Prakash Chacko (right) about the Kelian River exhibition. WIth them is JPS director Shukri Muslim (left) during the ‘Jom Kenali Sungai Kelian’ awareness campaign. — Photo: CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

THE Penang government is looking at adopting Selangor’s stiff penalty of up to RM250,000 to developers who fail to comply with the Erosion and Sedimentation Control Plan (ESCP).

State works committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari said the state hoped to minimise the non-compliance rate of ESCPs with a new by-law on compounds for violations.

“I will submit a paper on the by-law in the state executive council meeting to compound offences under Section 70A, 71 and 121 of the Road, Drainage and Building Act 1974.

“This will allow us to compound non-compliant developers with a penalty of up to RM25,000 per offence under Section 70A for not providing sediment ponds, failing to provide silt straps and other requirements under their ESCP.

“Under Section 71 of the Act, the penalty will be up to RM250,000 per offence, which includes offences such as failing to maintain slopes and retaining walls, leading to mud floods.

“Under Section 121, penalties could also be issued for minor offences like signage failure and offences pertaining to permits for entry, ” he said in his speech at the ‘Jom Kenali Sungai Kelian’ awareness campaign recently.

Zairil said the state wanted to “hit non-compliant developers hard”, adding that about 85% of developers in the state did not adhere or comply to their own ESCP.

“This is because currently, we can only instruct them to rectify the conditions when they are found to be non-compliant or give a stop-work order until they rectify it.

“We also realised that Penang Island City Council (MBPP) has no provisions to compound them for such failures.

“Seberang Prai City Council (MBSP) has provisions to give a compound of RM250, which if you fine them up to ten times, would only add up to RM2,500.

“So we want to follow the law that Selangor came up with. After they implemented the law, there is much more compliance.

“This is especially true as the city councils in Selangor collected a lot of money after implementing the law.

“When they started in the beginning, some councils were issuing fines of up to RM1mil a year.

“Eventually the rate dropped, which was a good thing as it also meant non-compliance rates dropped and the developers were more aware, ” he added.

Zairil said if the law was implemented in Penang, it would take one to two years for people to be aware.

“But in the meantime, we would hit the non-compliant developers hard, not only getting revenue for the state but also ensuring real action are taken against them.

“I am positive the state will approve the by-law and I am also proposing for each council to create their own special squad.

“The special squad’s job will be to monitor and conduct spot checks for non-compliance in earthworks, ” he added.

He said in many pollution and landslide cases, the causes could be attributed to man-made causes.

“This is where we can create intervention and try to resolve the problem.

“One of the issues we face is often at construction sites, when developers submit their ESCP for approval and do not comply with it after the approval.

“This could lead to dire consequences like landslides, hill collapse or temporary slope failures, which we have seen in Penang for the past two years, ” he said.

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