In Penang, green group raises alarm on earthworks and hill cutting on Mount Erskine

Opalyn Mok

An aerial view of the hill cutting at Mount Erskine. — Picture courtesy of Sahabat Alam Malaysia

GEORGE TOWN, Nov 18 — Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) said authorities must explain the massive earthworks and hill cutting detected on steep slopes at Mount Erskine.

SAM president Meenakshi Raman said a significant part of the hill cutting involved slopes above 250 feet (75m) and with gradients above 25 degrees.

“SAM has also learnt that in September 2018, Penang Hills Watch (PHW), which is an NGO initiative, alerted the state authorities and the Majlis Bandaraya Pulau Pinang (MBPP) about the hill cutting activities,” she said in a statement issued today.

She claimed that PHW was informed that “mitigation works” were being carried out at the site, which is on state government land.

She urged the MBPP and the state authorities to explain the mitigation works taken and why the steep slopes were cut and cleared in violation of the state’s regulations.

“The state policy under the Penang Structure Plan is to protect hill lands and not allow earthworks on lands above 250 feet or slopes which exceed 25-degree gradient, and given that this is public land, we are alarmed that such hill-cutting and clearing is going on,” she said.

She pointed out that many parts of the slopes were now exposed, and warned of severe soil erosion risks, especially during this rainy season, which could contribute to landslides and flash floods in the area.

“We are very worried of a repeat of landslide tragedies such as that at the Granito site and the Bukit Kukus in Paya Terubong which led to the death of workers working in the area,” she said.

She then called on MBPP and the state authorities to take urgent measures to prevent the social and environmental impacts caused by the hill-cutting and earthwork activities.

When contacted, the MBPP public relations office said they will issue a statement soon.

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