KUALA LUMPUR: There must be a comprehensive national policy that seeks to balance conservation, appropriate development and management of the highlands and hillsides, Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Dr Shafie Mohd Salleh said.
He said there should exist greater collaboration between non-governmental organisation (NGOs), developers, professionals and the authorities to address the issues at hand.
He added that such a move would ensure a healthy and worthwhile attempt at proper development of hillsides.
Speaking at the opening of Property Seminar 2003: Hillside Development, Issues and Challenges here yesterday, Dr Shafie said the greatest fear of any hillside development project was the pressure it might exert on the hillslopes soil.
The felling of trees might cause a weakening of the soils cohesive powers and could lead to extensive soil erosion during a downpour, he said.
He added that problems of landslides and erosions might happen again, if care was not taken to protect the slopes.
Citing examples of the collapse of Highland Towers that claimed 48 lives in 1993, mudslides in Pos Dipang, Perak, that killed 13, and the landslide incident in Taman Hillview, Selangor, that took eight lives last December, Dr Shafie said the disasters had caused grievous harm and damage to man and real estate.
Although natural causes may in certain instances be unavoidable, those that are man-made must surely be prevented and avoided at all costs, he added.
All departments, developers, consumer groups, NGOs and the public must play vital roles in ensuring proper hillside development, Dr Shafie said.
He added that although there were adequate rules and regulations governing development on highlands, the real question was whether the power and authority to enforce and implement those rules were there.
There is a real need for a central agency to pursue indiscriminate cutting of hills, felling of trees on hillsides, destruction of natural habitats and scarring of beautiful hillslopes through uncoordinated and uncontrolled development activities, he said.