Better engineering works on hillsides now, says engineer

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 11 Dec 2013

ENGINEERING practices over hillside development have improved since the Highland Towers tragedy, with experts saying that the authorities have strictly adhered to the guidelines.

“A lot has improved,” said Liew Shaw Shong, who chairs the Geotechnical Engineering Technical division under the Institution of Engineers.

“The local authorities adhere quite strongly to the set guidelines. They will impose the guidelines to any submission that we have used or even go beyond the guidelines.”

Liew said the authorities appeared to have followed a safety-bound approach with tighter controls on how hillside development was carried out.

“There has not been a lot of drastic changes when it comes to practice, but there has been a lot of improvement in the understanding of soil behaviour,” he said.

Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association president Datuk Seri Michael Yam agreed with the importance set by the authorities on hillside development.

“Guidelines on hillside development in Malaysia are already well in place.

“Legislation and regulations have been made more stringent in recent years,” he said, adding that when failure took place, it was due to poor monitoring and poor maintenance of hill slope and retaining structures.

He said the changes in water flow, ground pressure and ground movement could lead to the deterioration of a slope structure.

“Prevention of such possible failure can be achieved with periodic and regular monitoring followed by corrective action and additional measures taken from time to time,” he said.

He said that the association members relied on professionals registered with the Board of Engineers to ensure that their development was safe and sound.

“Our view is that responsible developers do not compromise where risk to safety and life is involved,” he said.

Yam added that the number of failures that occurred were also “relatively small”, and that incidents were often “blown up excessively” and followed by finger-pointing.

“In some circumstances, although no loss of lives are involved, the incident will receive a high profile coverage analogous to the rare incident of an air plane crash.”

Related stories:

Former residents just want to move on

It still hurts - 20 years on

Hazard map listing risky hillslopes to be ready by March

Lack of accountability a culture that endangers lives

Lessons learnt from the disaster

'We move on, but we don't forget'

Lessons we have yet to learn, 20 years on

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