After fatal landslide, Penang admits DoE did not approve Tanjung Bungah project

The Penang government admits that the DoE did not approve the 49-storey affordable housing project where the deadly landslide occurred in Tanjung Bungah. Picture taken October 23, 2017. — Pictures by KE Ooi
The Penang government admits that the DoE did not approve the 49-storey affordable housing project where the deadly landslide occurred in Tanjung Bungah. Picture taken October 23, 2017. — Pictures by KE Ooi

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GEORGE TOWN, Oct 23 — The Penang government admitted today that the Department of Environment (DoE) had previously objected to the development of a highrise housing project at a hill slope in Tanjung Bungah here where a landslide last Saturday killed 11 construction workers.

State executive councillor Chow Kon Yeow also said that while DoE may not agree to the project, the Penang Island City Council’s (MBPP) One Stop Centre (OSC) committee were considering the views of over 20 other agencies, including one that had granted approval.

“The OSC had to consider views from 24 agencies, not only from one agency, even though one or two agency have different views, the Mineral and Geoscience Department approved this project,” he told a news conference at Komtar here.

He pointed out that the Mineral and Geoscience Department deals with hill slope stability.

When asked why the local authority still approved the project despite objections from DoE, Chow said the OSC committee made the decision based on DoE’s support for two other projects in the same vicinity.

At the same news conference, MBPP Mayor Datuk Maimunah Sharif said two other projects, one which is a triple-storey terrace houses project and another, the Tunku Abdul Rahman College, were located nearer to the quarry site mentioned by DoE.

“These two other projects are less than 350m from the quarry site while this project is more than 350m away from the quarry site, which is in accordance with our guidelines,” she said of the 49-storey affordable housing project whose workers were killed in the landslide.

Chow stressed that the guidelines for approval of projects near quarry sites was to be at least 350m from the quarry and pointed out that the highrise construction site was 500m from the quarry.

“The exact distance of this site is more than 350m from the blasting site, it is moving away from the site, not nearer,” he later clarified.

He also said that conclusions that the landslide was due to the distance from a quarry can’t be merely made based on DoE’s views.

“We can’t make conclusions based on DoE’s statement,” he said.

MBPP Mayor Datuk Maimunah Sharif shows the location of the 49-storey affordable housing project in Tanjung Bungah where the deadly landslide occurred.
MBPP Mayor Datuk Maimunah Sharif shows the location of the 49-storey affordable housing project in Tanjung Bungah where the deadly landslide occurred.

Maimunah and Chow both insisted that the incident was a “work site accident”.

“Based on MBPP’s early observations, we suspect there was negligence in the management of the work site,” Maimunah said.

She said the project is still under construction and as such, the project consultant is responsible for safety at the site as well as its workers by ensuring construction works were in accordance with guidelines approved by the council and technical department.

Chow said the MBPP has been ordered to lodge a police report on the incident on the basis that there is a possibility of professional negligence involved in the site.

“The purpose of the police report is to enable the police to conduct an investigation on the work site accident and to charge whichever parties found to be negligent that had caused the death of 11 workers,” he said.

When asked if the meeting minutes of the OSC will be declassified, Maimunah said they will declassify it.

Planning permission for 49-storey affordable housing building was approved by the OSC on February 18, 2015.

The building plan for the project was submitted on April in 2015 and it was subsequently approved on May 2015.

Commencement of work was approved on January 18, 2016.

Maimunah claimed that the construction site was zoned as a general housing zone.

On Saturday, a landslide occurred at the construction site in Lembah Permai, Tanjung Bungah, killing 11 workers.

Non-governmental organisations and environmental groups have voiced concerns against the project even before the project commenced.

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