‘Centralised body needed for hillslope safety’

KUALA LUMPUR: Various industry stakeholders are mooting for the establishment of a centralised body to oversee hillslope management in government.

The Expert Standing Committee on Slope Safety, a body comprising industry experts and stakeholders, will be promoting the idea at a hillslope management seminar on May 7 to spark debate among governmental agencies, experts and the public for such a panel.

G&P Professionals Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Dr Gue See Sew said yesterday that there is a need for a body to help the 149 local authorities manage hillslopes and proposed developments on such environmentally sensitive areas.

“The local authorities don’t really have the expertise to tackle hillslope management, and we hope to help them by establishing a centralised body to oversee such matters,” he said after a press conference on the Slope Management Seminar. “We will be bringing up the issue at the seminar to get the debate going and see where we can go from there,” he added.

Gue said that although there are guidelines and state planning laws on hillslope development, they can be improved. “Are they too complicated to be abided by? Are they too technical? We hope we can get the feedback during the seminar.”

There are various guidelines in local planning laws specifying the need for controls and checks on developments on steep slopes. Despite this, local authorities continue to receive high density development proposals from developers eager to construct residences on hillslopes.

The Ministry of Urban Wellbeing, Local Government and Housing’s local government department (building control division) director Ahmad Redza Ghulam Rasool said the common perception is that local authorities are solely responsible for hillslope management, but this is not accurate.

“We all have a role to play in preserving our slopes. Even though we have all these guidelines, the perception is that it is for the local authorities [to enforce],” he added. “But actually, it is supposed to be a practice for developers, consultants and so on.”

He said that although state governments have their own guidelines, resulting in slight variances across states, the basic principles are present. “For example, there must be an independent check on the design and specifications of the building.”

NGO Slope Watch programme director Eriko Motoyama said there is a noticeable difference when local authorities deal with complications occurring on government-owned hillslope land as opposed to land owned by third parties, suggesting action is swifter for government-owned land.

“When local authorities deal with issues on land owned by governmental agencies or the local authority itself, they [local authorities] will come in and find the funds, find contractors and fix it as fast as they can,” she said. “But when it comes to land owned by third parties, they will issue letters, warnings and so on, which sometimes get ignored and cause difficulties for the local authorities chasing after them.

“But with slopes, you can’t just ignore the problem. These get worse with time. So how do you address this? Is our legislation empowering local authorities to effectively deal with land that do not belong to them?”

These systemic problems need to be addressed, she said.

The hillslope management seminar is organised by the Construction Industry Development Board and the Local Government and Housing Ministry. Tickets are priced at RM150 for the public.

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This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on April 10, 2014.


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