(Update) Hillslope developments under states' jurisdiction: Noh Omar

Ahmad Fairuz Othman

ISKANDAR PUTERI: The federal government has no power to stop hillslope developments outside of the federal territories, as they fall under the jurisdiction of state governments.

Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Tan Sri Noh Omar said the ministry can only advise state governments on such matters.

With regard to hillslope developments in Penang, he said the state has its own set of guidelines which are different from the ones issued by the ministry.

"The state does not follow (the ministry's) guidelines on hillslope developments, which is contained in a book issued in 2009.

"The power to stop work and to begin work lies with state governments. (The ministry) can advise, make the policy, (send out) circulars. But the implementation is under the state government," he said in response to growing calls from many quarters for the Penang government to stop hillslope developments in the state.

Noh made his comments when launching the World Habitat, World Town Planning event and the handing-over-of-appointment letters to Resident Representative Committees (JPP) in Puteri Harbour here on Saturday.

On Friday, The New Straits Times reported on growing opposition to hillslope developments in Penang – with individuals such as PKR's Batu Uban assemblyman Dr T. Jayabalan urging that such developments should stop until studies are conducted.

A 17-hour storm last Saturday led to a mega flood, landslides and uprooted trees which devastated most of Penang.

Thousands were displaced and seven deaths were reported.

Noh said that despite having the guideline on hillslope developments from the ministry, the state governments will outline its own set of guideliness on the matter based on the geographical conditions of the respective states.

He said in case of Penang, the state government came up with the 'Safety Guidelines for Hill Site Developments 2012'.

"But we hope that (state governments) will adhere by the (ministry's) guidelines. It is not a matter of saying 'it is up to you'. The state governments should abide by what we decided upon (in the ministry's guidelines)," he said.

Noh said that adhering to the federal-issued hillslope guidelines will help in the event of a disaster.

He said the other aspects of town planning implementation, which also come under the ministry's jurisdiction, can also help mitigate affects of disasters such as floods.

In giving the example of Penang, he said the recent flood disaster was caused by many factors including the unprecedented weather. However, he said certain planning aspects could have mitigated some of the losses incurred.

"It is costly to replace infrastructure. That is why the ministry hopes that planning and guidelines are abided...There were many causes of the (Penang disaster). Sudden rain and storms are among them.

"But if issues such as drainage, hillslope developments and zoning had been looked into, the (affects) could have been less than what we experienced." said Noh. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd