On 28 September 2018, my office received a report documenting concerns on various hill-clearing activities in Penang from the NGO Penang Hills Watch, submitted via MBPP Councillor Madam Chee. My office reviewed the report and an email reply was sent to Madam Chee on 4 October 2018, thanking her.
The report raised some concerns about conditions at the Bukit Kukus Highway project, specifically about exposed slopes causing soil erosion, resulting in “heavy rainfall runoff causing flooding of mud-laden waters”.
As the State Executive Councillor responsible for flood mitigation, I was concerned about these complaints, as erosion and sedimentation would indeed cause bottlenecks in the rivers downstream, especially during the rainy season.
On 8 October 2018, a special taskforce under the Erosion and Sedimentation Control Committee (Ops Lumpur) which I chair, conducted a spot-check on the Bukit Kukus site. The team was led by Jabatan Pengairan dan Saliran (JPS) District Engineer Nortilawati Osman. The remit of the taskforce was to check for compliance of the project’s Erosion and Sedimentation Control Plan (ESCP).
In the areas visited, the Ops Lumpur taskforce found the following irregularities:
As per the standard operating procedure (SOP), the Ops Lumpur team issued a letter to the consultant of the project demanding that mitigation measures are taken within 14 days, failing which MBPP would be requested to take appropriate action including issuing a stop-work order.
|Chronology of Events|
|28 September 2018||Complaint received from Penang Hill Watch.|
|4 October 2018||My office replies to the complainant.|
|8 October 2018||Ops Lumpur taskforce conducts spot-check at Bukit Kukus site, finds irregularities. As per SOP, 14 days given for contractor to implement mitigation. Follow-up visit set on 22 October.|
|12 October 2018||Findings of Ops Lumpur reported to the Erosion and Sedimentation Control Committee. MBPP instructed to draft by-laws to allow stiff compound measures.|
|13 October 2018||Initial localised stop-work order issued by the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) following beam collapse.|
|17 October 2018||Full stop-work order issued by DOSH.|
|19 October 2018||Landslide occurs.|
Claims that complaints were not attended to are untrue. In fact, action was taken immediately in accordance to existing guidelines and SOPs.
The Penang State Government reiterates that there is no excuse for non-compliance. The cause of the Bukit Kukus landslide must be uncovered, and a full investigation is underway. If there is evidence of professional negligence, then those responsible will be held to account.
Zairil Khir Johari
Penang State Executive Councillor for Public Works, Utilities and Flood Mitigation
State Assemblyman for Tanjong Bunga
NB: This press statement was released on 23 October 2018 in George Town.