Don: Constant monitoring key to curbing landslides

GEORGE TOWN: Good monitoring and management actions are key to curbing landslides and erosion along hilly stretches, says a university professor.

Prof Dr Fauziah Ahmad from Universiti Sains Malaysia School of Civil Engineering said that while some incidents were natural disasters or due to climate change, most occurrences could be monitored and managed properly.

“The key to managing landslides is to conduct proper monitoring of slopes and critical areas.

“When a landslide occurs, it means there is slope failure on parts of the hill, so we do sheet piling on the slopes to stabilise them.

“It helps to control soil movement with the sheets penetrating the soil to a certain length to ensure the soil behind it cannot move.

“Realistically, we cannot do sheet piling on every slope and we also cannot protect every part of the hill,” she said.

Prof Fauziah said the authorities should monitor critical areas and hill slopes from time to time.

“It is not practical to carry out monitoring occasionally. When no changes or soil movements are detected, the slopes or critical areas are left unchecked for a long time,” she said.

Prof Fauziah said Malaysia could learn from Hong Kong, which has a systematic approach to monitor slopes and critical areas.

“The authorities in Hong Kong monitor slopes and critical areas regularly, especially if there are communities there.

“We should learn from such practices. For hills which are away from the community, we can leave Mother Nature to take its course.

“But if there are communities near the hills, we need to have appropriate measures and awareness,” she added.

Prof Fauziah said landslides and soil erosion are almost inevitable when there are torrential rains or prolonged rainfall.

“When there is a lot of rain, the water weight would carry along loose particles or soil.

“So when the flood subsides, we see a lot of mud, soil and residue.

“Whenever there is flooding, water could wash away the soil and the water weight can carry along the loose particles.

“This is why we can see shallow or deep sliding on parts of hill slopes during heavy rainfall,” she said.

Prof Fauziah, who is an expert in soil and slope movement, said when it comes to torrential rain, large amounts of rainwater could seep into the soil.

“The soil would start to accumulate water, causing soil movement.

“If the resistance of the soil or slope is not strong, it will slide and carry the water and all the particles with it,” she said.

Over the years, Penang has been hit with incidents of landslide with the worst being on Oct 21, 2017 where 11 workers comprising a local, five Bangladeshis, two Indonesians, two Myanmar nationals and a Pakistani were buried by a landslide at an affordable housing construction site in Lengkok Lembah Permai, Tanjung Bungah.

A year later, another major landslide took the lives of nine foreign workers and injured four others at the Bukit Kukus road project site.

The construction company and the project director of the Paya Terubong paired roads project in Jalan Bukit Kukus were later fined RM35,000 each after they pleaded guilty to an amended charge of failing to provide safe working procedures at the project site.

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