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Build by all means, but have public safety and sustainability in mind, say the rakyat

NST – 27th. November, 2009 

 

There is an urgent need to remind every Malaysian, specially those empowered to approve land development projects, to read the “Rio Declaration on Environment and Development”.

Since Malaysia had endorsed that Declaration, the question is: Have we fully walked the talk on our own shores since then?

The document essentially says that we, as human beings, are at the “centre of concerns” for sustainable development. However, the manner in which some authorities approve development projects, without giving any thought to public safety of the neighbouring residents, is a direct contravention of Principle 1.

The document’s Principle 3 is in sync with the Brundtland Commission’s definition of “sustainable development”, i.e. “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. If what we do today affects adversely the interest of our future generations, then what we are doing is clearly not sustainable development.

Principle 4 emphasies that environmental protection is an “integral part” of the development process and should never be considered apart from it. You cannot have development by sacrificing the environment.

Principle 10 is, to my mind, the most important. It demands that when the relevant authority is about to decide whether a particular development project is to be approved or not, citizen engagement in that decision-making process is a vital prerequisite.

The painful history surrounding the proposed development of Bukit Gasing shows the dismal level of understanding or commitment by the relevant approving authority in upholding the principle of citizen engagement.

In a meeting held in November 2007, residents living around Bukit Gasing were assured by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) planning director Mahadi Che Ngah that they would be given “a public hearing to air their concerns on the safety and environmental aspects” of the Bukit Gasing project. That assurance was in keeping with the Rio Declaration.

However, when some 300 residents from Taman Petaling, Gasing Indah and Gasing Heights Condominium then petitioned for a public hearing, DBKL responded (in a letter of Dec 31, 2007) that such a public hearing would be “against the rules and regulations”.

Their explanation was that under the Planning (Development) Regulations 1970 of the Federal Territory (Planning) Act 1982, public hearings are held only if the proposed development project involves changes in “population density” or “land use”.

Authorities are urged to consider public safety before they approve hillside developments.

The residents were told that since Gasing Meridian Sdn Bhd’s application did not involve increased density or change in land use, a public hearing cannot be held.

If it is true that there are such rules in the Federal Territory, then there is an urgent need to review them. If not, do not talk of sustainable planning at all.

Incidentally, this year’s theme for the World Town Planning Day was “Sustainable Development – People First”.

On April 24, 2009, the High Court granted the residents leave to challenge the development order previously granted (on Oct 2, 2007) by the then KL mayor Datuk Ab Hakim Borhan.

Commenting on the good news then, joint Action Committee for Bukit Gasing spokesman Victor Oorjitham said it took the residents 20 months and several hearings in court before they were granted “leave” by the court to challenge the development order.

To understand the significance of this “leave” (or permission to challenge the approval) by the High Court, look again at Principle 10 which states there must be “effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings”.

Explaining the residents’ objective in taking the fight to the courts, Oorjitham said, “No development of Bukit Gasing should be permitted because of the steep gradient on parts of the hill and unsuitable soil structure.” If development is allowed on the slope, there would be “landslides affecting the life and property of thousands of residents living close to the hill”. That is, of course, Principle 1 read together with Principle 4.

Following the High Court decision favouring the residents, DBKL and the developer appealed to the Court of Appeal.

On Nov 20, 2009, the Court of Appeal (by a majority decision 2 :1) dismissed the appeal in favour of the residents. This means they can now resume their battle in court, to challenge the development order given by DBKL to the developer.

How that substantive fight will end, only time will tell. By then, we will know whether the 27 Rio Principles have any meaning at all here.

Salleh Buang is senior advisor of a company specialising in competitive intelligence. He is also active in training and public speaking and can be reached at sallehbuang@hotmail.com

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The Malaysian Insider  

By Neville Spykerman

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 27 — Both the federal and Selangor governments, embroiled in a tussle over declassifying the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide report, have been reminded not to lose sight of the fact that five lives were lost in the tragedy and that victims deserve answers.

“We are not bothered about the politics, just give us the report,” Bukit Antarabangsa action committee chairman Datuk N. Muniandy said yesterday.

He said the victims of the Dec 6 landslide last year, which also destroyed 14 bungalows and caused million in damages, had been waiting long enough.

Last week, the Selangor mentri besar attempted to declassify the

Public Works Department (PWD) report but backtracked after the federal

government threatened action if the status of the report was changed.

A summary report released by Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim indicated a burst pipe, at an abandoned housing project on the slope overlooking the buried houses, was the main cause of the landslide.

On Wednesday, the New Straits Times quoted the Work Minister as saying there was no need for the ministry to declassify the report because Khalid had already issued statements on the reasons for the tragedy.

The minister has also instructed its legal department to determine if the Selangor government had violated the OSA by releasing a summary of the classified document…

 More…

…but Selangor Menteri Besar wants the Cabinet to make landslide report public

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009 07:16:00 

MalayMail – Pearl Lee 

WHY did the Selangor government decide at the  11th hour yesterday not to release the much awaited Bukit Antarabangsa landslide report?

The effort by the State government to declassify the report last week has ended in vain, and it looks like the report will not be made public any time soon, for a Selangor government source disclosed the State could  have been “ill advised”on its move.

The declassification of the report by the State last week gave hope to residents that they would finally know what caused the landslide and enable them to get more information on the safety of the area and its surroundings.

While members of the media were provided with a four page summary on what  caused the Dec 6, 2008, landslide, the State government’s U-turn to not release the report will leave many  residents, who had been
eagerly awaiting its release for almost a year, very disappointed.

But why the U-turn after “declassifying” the report?  While the Selangor government announced last week it had declassified the report under Section 2C of the Official Secrets Act, its decision not to release it yesterday
has drawn speculation the State does not have the authority to declassify the report in the first place.

It is also believed that the State was forced to bow to pressure from certain quarters. Menteri Besar Tan Sri
Abdul Khalid Ibrahim when declassifying the report last week said he was using his powers under Section 2C  of the Official Secrets Act to do so.

More…

The Star Online – By PRIYA MENON

THE residents affected by the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide last December are looking at avenues for compensation from all the relevant stakeholders, including the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ).

Bukit Antarabangsa Action Committee secretary-general Raymond Jagathesan said they were proposing three main compensation avenues in view of negligence by the parties:

·An unspecified quantum for the lives lost in the tragic incident;

·An appeal to rebuild the collapsed houses, which, upon completion, will be handed over to the residents; and

Compensation for residents whose houses are still standing but have been forced to evacuate and are renting homes elsewhere.

He said no amount of money could replace the lives lost, hence their decision to propose an unspecified amount.

He added that residents were asking for their homes to be rebuilt as the RM70mil given by the Federal Government to rehabilitate the slopes would act as a buffer.

“The work being carried out is to eradicate any recurrence of a landslide in the area,” Jagathesan said.

He also said residents who had been forced to shift out had to pay for the rental of new houses while still paying off their loans for their homes in Bukit Antarabangsa. There were also other expenses, like travelling.

The recent release of a technical committee report which cited a number of factors, including loose soil, lack of maintenance and faulty drainage, as the cause of the landslide has prompted them to ask for the compensation.

Residents had been led to believe that the incident was a natural disaster until the report was made public earlier this week by Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim.

The residents will be having a meeting this weekend to decide on the proposal to be sent to those responsible for the incident.

Jagathesan urged all parties involved to resolve the issue amicably instead of forcing the residents to take legal action.

Under the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974, local councils cannot be made liable for any collapsed building.

Jagathesan said if they could not take legal action, the residents association would seek help from the state government.

The tragedy on Dec 6 last year claimed five lives and affected thousands more.

http://thestar.com.my/metro/story.asp?file=/2009/11/21/central/5154988&sec=central

The Star Online

Saturday November 21, 2009  Story and photo by OH ING YEEN

BUKIT Gasing residents triumphed 2-1 in a court appeal against the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL).

The judge had ruled that DBKL’s appeal against the High Court decision granting leave to residents to challenge a development order on a hillslope project in Bukit Gasing was dismissed in court, said lawyers R. Sivarasa and Derek Fernandez, who represented the residents.

As reported in StarMetro (“Ray of hope for Bukit Gasing folk”) on April 27, the High Court has granted the residents leave to proceed with an application to nullify the development order on a Bukit Gasing project issued on Oct 2, 2007 by the then Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Ab Hakim Borhan.

Big day: Bukit Gasing residents rejoicing the appeal court’s decision.

 

However, DBKL and the developer appealed to the Court of Appeal against the “leave” granted by the High Court, Joint Action Committee for Bukit Gasing (JACBG) committee member Victor Oorjitham said.

“It took us nearly 20 months and attending several hearings in court before we were granted “leave” by the court,” said Victor.

“Our stand is that no development of Bukit Gasing should be permitted because of the steep gradient on parts of the hill and unsuitable soil structure comprising sand and shale (compressed mud) and that if development was allowed, there would be landslides affecting the life and property of thousands of residents living close to the hill,” he said.

The residents have been in constant battle for almost two years with the city council and the developer Gasing Meridien Sdn Bhd (GMSB) pertaining to the hillslope development in Bukit Gasing that would affect 108 residents.

Maxwell Towers Joint Management Body (JMB) chairman Ashok Menon said this was a significant case for the country.

“Today is one of the rare days where justice is delivered. This is a matter of safety.

“We need to have a city council that upholds the rights of tax-payers, instead all indications point out that the council is pro-business.

“We are not against development and progress but it should be done in an accountable way,” he said.

According to Menon, previously, the DBKL allowed a public hearing when:

·there’s a change of density;

· there’s a change of land use; and

·anything that affects the residents.

“However, the third ruling was amended 18 years ago, hence residents do not have a say if the development does not affect density or land use.

“All we asked was for a chance to be heard,” he said.

Ashok pointed out that Bukit Gasing bore many similarities to Bukit Antarabangsa such as underground piping.

He fears the possibility of the Bukit Antarabangsa tragedy will befall them if hillslope developments in Bukit Gasing are given the green light.

Resident G. Ong who has been residing in Bukit Gasing for the past six years, was jubilant with the judgment.

“The environment should not be spoiled.

“Think of others and not just of what goes in the pocket. We hope that whoever sits in the judgment can come to their senses,” she said.

One resident remarked that “this is not the end of it”, implying that DBKL and the developers will pursue this matter and take it to the Federal Court.
Fernandez, who is also the Petaling Jaya city councillor, pointed out the differences between Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya.
“Since 2008, there will be public hearings if there were objections to any developments in Petaling Jaya.
“However according to DBKL, this right is limited in KL, unless there’s a change to density or land use.
“Hopefully, this will signify a change where public participation is allowed in DBKL and I hope that this will be streamlined across the country whereby all neighbouring landowners have a right to be heard in any development taking place.
“The people must be heard,” he said.

http://thestar.com.my/metro/story.asp?file=/2009/11/21/central/5155291&sec=central

2009/11/20 – NST Online

PUTRAJAYA: Kuala Lumpur City Hall and a developer today failed to prevent 108 Bukit Gasing residents from challenging a development order by the Kuala Lumpur mayor pertaining to a hillslope development project in the area.

Court of Appeal Judge Datuk Paduka Zaleha Zahari and Datuk Mohd Hishamudin Mohd Yunus dismissed KL City Hall’s appeal in a 2-1 majority decision, with Justice K. N. Segara dissenting.

In an oral decision, Justice Zaleha said after going through the submissions of both parties, the applicant’s appeal was dismissed.

KL City Hall and the developer, Gasing Meridian Sdn Bhd (GMSB), are appealing against the High Court decision on April 24, in granting leave for a judicial review to the residents to quash the mayor’s order.

GMSB is the developer involved in the development of Sanctuary Ridge Kuala Lumpur City — a project to build 68 bungalows on a 15.5ha site in Bukit Gasing. – Bernama

http://www.nstp.com.my/Current_News/NST/articles/20091120160740/Article/

Nov 20, 09 4:26pm – Malaysiakini

Kuala Lumpur City Hall and a developer today failed to prevent 108 Bukit Gasing residents from challenging a development order by the Kuala Lumpur mayor pertaining to a hillslope development project in the area.

Court of Appeal judge Zaleha Zahari and Mohd Hishamudin Mohd Yunus dismissed KL City Hall’s appeal in a 2-1 majority decision, with justice KN Segara dissenting.

In an oral decision, justice Zaleha said after going through the submissions of both parties, the applicant’s appeal was dismissed.

The residents claimed that the mayor had failed to take into account that they had a right under common law to be given due notice, and be given a chance to voice their opinions in the decision-making process of planning.

 KL City Hall and the developer, Gasing Meridian Sdn Bhd (GMSB), are appealing against the High Court decision on April 24, in granting leave for a judicial review to the residents to quash the mayor’s order.

GMSB is the developer involved in the development of Sanctuary Ridge Kuala Lumpur City – a project to build 68 bungalows on a 15.5ha site in Bukit Gasing.

‘Residents have rights’

Lawyers R Sivarasa and Derek Fernandez, appearing for the residents, told the media that the residents should have the right to voice their opinion as there might be landslides affecting the lives and property of those staying near the hill.

Read more: http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/117942

ANOTHER HURDLE CROSSED! A step nearer to preventing destruction of Bukit Gasing and saving the lives of residents

  

Bukit Gasing residents cheering outside the Court of Appeal

Our lawyer Mr. R. Sivarasa and YB Hee Loy Sian speaking with Bukit Gasing residents

Our lawyer Mr. R. Sivarasa and YB Hee Loy Sian speaking with Bukit Gasing residents

Our sincere thanks to our lawyers Mr. R. Sivarasa and Mr Derek Fernandez

 

PUTRAJAYA, Nov 20

In early 2008, 108 owners / residents from Fraser Towers, Cameron Towers, Maxwell Towers, and Gasing Indah filed a court case in the High Court, Kuala Lumpur against DBKL and the developer Gasing Meridian Sdn. Bhd, to quash the Development Order (D.O.) granted by DBKL to Gasing Meridian to build 71 luxury homes on Bukit Gasing.

The first part of the case was to obtain “leave ” from the High Court to proceed with the main part of the case to establish why the D. O. should be set aside. After several hearings at the High Court over a period of about 18 months, the High Court in late 2009 granted the “leave” applied for.

DBKL and Gasing Meridian filed an appeal to the Court of Appeal, Putrajaya, against the Order for “leave” granted by the High Court. The Court of Appeal after hearing submissions from all parties, today dismissed the appeal of DBKL and Gasing Meridian, with costs.

Owners / Residents can rejoice with the decision as this is one step forward in our case to prevent the destruction of Bukit Gasing and to protect the lives and property of Owners / Residents living close to Bukit Gasing. Our sincere thanks to our lawyers Mr. R. Sivarasa and Mr Derek Fernandez and others who have been involved in the process and provided support.

Victor Oorjitham

Joint Action Committee

Bukit Gasing Residents Can Challenge Mayor’s OrderBernama

Thursday November 19, 2009 – The Star Online

Story & pictures by GEETHA KRISHNAN

 

CHERAS: A landslide behind the Cheras Awana flats yesterday afternoon flattened several vehicles and forced the evacuation of 10 families.

Three cars and a motorcycle were destroyed in the 2.30pm incident that occurred after a downpour 

 

Scary sight: Residents taking a closer look at the landslide behind the Cheras Awana flats yesterday.

  

There were no casualties but losses were estimated at RM70,000.

Residents said that prior to the incident, a contractor hired by the Kajang Municipal Council was building a retention wall along the 7m-high slope.

Kajang OCPD Asst Comm Sakaruddin Che Mood issued the evacuation order upon visiting the site.

Five families were moved to the Cheras Permai community hall while the remaining families spent the night with relatives.

Kajang municipal councillor Ng Thien Chee said the contractor would be instructed to compensate the victims.

He said the council’s engineering department would investigate if work was carried out according to specifications but declined to say whether the slope was deemed unstable. 

 

Completely wrecked: Two of the cars which were flattened by the landslide behind the Cheras Awana flats yesterday.

 

Flat owner B. Ravindran, 42, said both his Wira and Kancil were crushed in the mishap.

“My family and I are without cars now and it is going to be difficult to move around. My wife used the smaller car to send our kids to school,” he added.

Another resident P. Anantha­kumar, 28, said there were two previous soil erosion incidents within the year.

http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2009/11/19/nation/5140503&sec=nation

TheStar Online – Thursday November 19, 2009

SHAH ALAM: The main factor behind the Taman Bukit Mewah landslide at Bukit Antarabangsa in Hulu Kelang last December was a burst pipe along several abandoned houses.

This caused the earth on the hill to be waterlogged, said Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim.

He added that the findings of a technical committee revealed that the waterlogged earth on the slope was the main cause of the landslide.

However, Khalid added that the report did not say who was responsible for the tragedy.

“We have declassified the investigation report prepared by the Public Works Department on the incident which claimed five lives and caused damage that ran into millions of ringgit,” he said.

More…

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