Sharper eye on projects helps stave off disasters

Cause for concern: An aerial view of the Paya Terubong paired roads project in Jalan Bukit Kukus, where a major landslide in 2018 killed nine. — CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: A tighter grip on development projects at hilly areas has helped local authorities ensure fewer mishaps since the slew of landslides in Penang a few years ago.

State infrastructure committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari said that from 2017 to November this year, a total of 204 earthwork monitoring operations have been carried out by the Ops Lumpur task force to monitor all approved earthwork activities.

“The Irrigation and Drainage Department (DID) requires the developer to undertake more environmentally friendly earthworks based on the guidelines and conditions set out in the Urban Stormwater Management Manual, which was approved by the Cabinet and came into effect in January 2000.

“Developers are required to comply with the conditions of approval for earthworks issued by the state or DID and the local authority.

“Non-compliance with these guidelines and conditions is one of the major contributors to the frequent occurrence of mud floods, and in turn, causes deterioration of water quality in drainage systems and rivers.

“The purpose of Ops Lumpur is to ensure the developer complies with all the plans and approvals that have been given. Compliance with the approved plan aims to reduce and prevent landslides and mud floods at an early stage.

“The compound rate for non-compliance offences of earthwork activities on site has also been increased to ensure developers take into account the importance of compliance when carrying out earthwork activities. I monitor all Ops Lumpur monitoring reports closely,” he added.

On the local authority’s role, Zairil said they have now enhanced certain aspects of monitoring developers carrying out projects in the state.

“The local council here has implemented continuous monitoring of all developments and construction sites approved by the local council.

“The council informs the developer or consulting engineers regarding the site maintenance from time to time, followed by inspections by the local council.

“Here, the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) requires the consulting engineer to submit a site report on a monthly basis until the Certificate of Completion and Compliance is issued by a certified architect appointed by the developer.

“MBPP conducts periodic monitoring using drones and closed-circuit television (CCTV) as well,” he added.

Zairil said further measures that have been taken by the state government include setting guidelines for development and construction proposals in hilly areas to have full-time supervision by consulting engineers on site, as well as maintenance and periodic inspections by developers or consulting engineers.

“Matters related to investigation and soil research must be also conducted by consulting engineers.

“MBPP has required the installation of CCTV and equipment for ground movement monitoring.

“Developers proposing developments or constructions in hilly areas must appoint an independent inspector to review and provide technical comments on the proposed development and submit the organisation chart of the construction site supervision team to the council,” he said, adding that all compliance costs are fully borne by the developer or consulting engineer.

He said the Public Works Department here has spent RM51.34mil to improve and strengthen the slopes in Penang along state and federal roads to prevent landslides from 2019 to this year.

On the hilly areas in the state, Zairil said MBPP conducts periodic monitoring of hilly areas.

“If it is found that the area is unstable or threatens public safety, MBPP will send a notice to the relevant agencies for government-owned land, or issue a notice to private landowners to carry out immediate mitigation works,” he said.

Penang island has seen three deadly landslides in recent years.

In October 2017, a temporary slope at the construction site of a high-rise apartment block in Tanjung Bungah collapsed, killing 11 workers.

On Oct 19 in 2018, a site at the Paya Terubong paired roads project in Jalan Bukit Kukus saw a major landslide that claimed the lives of nine foreigners and injured four others.

In June 2019, four Myanmar nationals were killed in a landslide while constructing a retaining wall at a beach resort in Jalan Batu Ferringhi, Tanjung Bungah.

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