GEORGE TOWN: It has been almost a month but the landslide at the Tanjung Bungah hill range still “bleeds” mud into the sea via Sungai Kelian whenever it rains, like a deep gaping wound.
And much to the dismay of residents and environmentalists, a short spell of rain on Friday afternoon turned the river mouth into a flow of teh tarik again.
Marine biologist Datuk Dr Aileen Tan said the first marine life forms to face death from this would be benthic organisms – clams and other filter feeders on the seabed that could not move away.
“Instead of filtering plankton, they will suffocate from the fine silt.
“Next will be organisms that need light. The sediment will cause a deficit of light in the sea if the problem is prolonged,” she said.
Dr Tan, who is the director of Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies, said another complication is that the silt has nutrients that can trigger harmful algal blooms, leading to eutrophication or a depletion of dissolved oxygen in the water.
Resident Anna Sam, who lives near Sungai Kelian, spotted the muddy water at 3pm on Friday and shared her photographs with The Star through the Tanjung Bungah Residents Association.
Going by the pictures, Dr Tan acknowledged that it looked bad but cautioned against blaming it on hill clearing or construction works.
In November last year, a work site accident caused tonnes of earth to tumble out of a temporary slope and killed 11 workers about 1km away from this landslide that happened in the middle of last month.
“We must help people differentiate between a natural landslide and a man-made disaster.
“This was strictly an act of God,” said Dr Tan.
She said she understood that Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBAPP), the owner of the land where the disaster struck, would need time to repair the hillside.
“PBAPP must be concerned, too. As long as there is no major rainfall, no big issue. But they had better hurry,” she added.
PBAPP chief executive officer Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa said the corporation would soon call for a tender for reparation works.
“It won’t be easy. There are no trails there, so bringing up equipment and machinery will be hard. We target to stop the erosion in about nine months,” said Jaseni.