Thursday, 28 January 2016

Hills clearing in Penang: NGOs not impressed with mitigation work at Botak Hill


http://www.thestar.com.my/metro/community/2016/01/28/searing-queries-on-clearing-ngos-not-impressed-with-mitigation-work-at-botak-hill/
An aerial shot taken from the bald patch on Bukit Relau, George Town, during a visit by the state delegation and NGOs to check on the mitigation work. — Photos: CHARLES MARIASOOSAY.

Chow (left) being briefed by technical consultant Khoo Koon Tai during the visit up Bukit Relau.

THE climb up the steep track on Bukit Relau is an arduous one. And there is little reward now for those who endure the climb.

The infamous Botak Hill seems to be getting balder. It’s a sad sight. What was once a lush hill had become a wide open patch of brown. Now, it is a giant scar of boulder, sand and concrete. The developer General Accomplish-ment Sdn Bhd is carrying out mitigation work which it says will be completed in June this year. For now, however, the hill looks worse than it did before.

The trip up the hill was arranged by the state and led by Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow. Others in the entourage included Deputy Chief Minister 1, Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon, executive councillors, state assemblyman, Penang Forum and Malaysia Nature Society, Penang.

It was no surprise that the NGO members were not impressed with the mitigation work. The condition of the hill has deteriorated so badly. The only greenery in sight were patches of grass on the boulders.

The NGOs are even more upset that with less than six months before the mitigation work is completed, there seems to be no plan in place to halt the erosion of the hill or to carry out restoration work, which will have to include replanting of trees, the undergrowth and comprehensive hydroseeding.

Roads and drainage systems built right down the hill have destroyed whatever greenery there was. The explanation given was that the roads were needed for the mitigation work rings hollow. “How can you carry out mitigation work and clear more land for the so called roads for mitigation work,” asked a Penang Forum member.

There are metal poles bordering a part of the hill, and it look like some hoarding is about to come up. Is there any development being planned for the spot of the hill?

A spokesman for the developer, General Accomplishment Sdn Bhd said RM20mil has been spent so far for the mitigation work and the amount could rise to RM50mil.

“Why would you want to spend RM50mil for mitigation work if you are not going to do anything with the land,” asked a reporter.

“Well, we are open to development of the land if that is what the people want,” replied the project manager for the developer.

Chow was non-committal when asked if the state would reject any development on the land saying it was a “hypothetical” question as there wasn’t any application (to develop the land).

Despite the long explanation, the burning question remains.

Will the hill be restored to its old state and or is the mitigation work just the start of plans to develop the hill for housing.

It was rezoned for housing in 2012.

By K. Sekaran The Star

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