Erosion of responsibility

Blue plastic sheets that have been abused by rain and shine over time —  Picture by Zuraneeza Zulkifli
Blue plastic sheets that have been abused by rain and shine over time — Picture by Zuraneeza Zulkifli

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NOV 13 — Have you ever wondered about those tattered plastic sheets that are often left on hill slopes for months if not years? No one does.

In fact, no one talks about plastic sheets, hill slopes or landslides until a tree falls on their roof and part of the house crumbles due to soil erosion or when death occurs.

A drive from Bukit Antarabangsa in Ampang to Petaling Jaya clearly shows how bare soil on hill slopes is left unattended, only protected by the remains of blue plastic sheets that have been abused by rain and shine over time.

Landslide, like the constant flash floods in major cities, is only spoken about when something untoward happens.

We have seen a string of tragedies in the past. The unforgettable Highland Towers incident in 1993 that claimed 48 lives. Two years later, two new unoccupied houses in Taman Melawati collapsed after 

heavy rain.

In 1997, three people were buried alive in a landslide along the Ampang-Hulu Kelang Expressway. In 1999, thousands of Bukit Antarabangsa and Wangsa Ukay residents in Ampang were trapped when a landslide cut off the only access road leading to their homes.

In 2000, a four-year-old child was killed in a landslide near Taman Kencana, Ampang.

I remember the landslide incident on Nov 20, 2002, that destroyed the bungalow of Affin Bank Bhd chairman Gen (Rtd) Ismail Omar. It left the whole family and two Indonesian maids dead. The incident occurred hardly 500m away from Highland Towers.

I visited that site a few months later to study the area as part of my thesis during my years studying civil engineering. I then researched on methods to address landslides and was led to geosynthetics company Polyfelt (now known as Royal TenCate).

The company provided me with information, samples of mats and proposed methods to address soil erosion.

I then presented my findings in front of a panel of lecturers, stressing such mats be used by local councils and developers to address slopes and soil erosion.

And I still remember clearly that one of the lecturers said I sounded like a salesman for Polyfelt. I was unperturbed for I got the marks I deserved.

What attempts or efforts has any party made to investigate or address this issue aggressively? Are developers penalised for deforestation and the cutting of slopes despite the various guidelines?

I also wonder why did it take so long for action to be taken after the landslide at the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve on May 7? 

We have not seen any construction of reinforced concrete wall or soil nailing. In fact, the blue torn plastic sheets have been the only protection for the past six months.

Apparently KL City Hall will only now start remedial works as it is the rainy season.

It has been raining almost every night and soil erosion is bound to happen.

All I can do is to pray that I will not be alerted of a landslide resulting in the deaths of many as I go to bed at the end of the day.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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