Wednesday July 14, 2010 – The Star

SLOPE development is a sensitive issue in Kuala Lumpur and yet a pertinent one.

We have 5% of land under Level 4 which is above 35 degrees, 49% for level two (15-25 degrees) and level three (25-35) and the rest falls under level 1 (15 degrees).

There are four hills, Bukit Tabur, Bukit Gasing, Bukit Nenas and Bukit Sungai Besi that we have agreed not to develop but there are other places like Bukit Tunku, Bukit Damansara and Bukit Lanjan that are also quite hilly but have been developed.

People often ask the question, “Why must we develop the hilly area?” They say it is dangerous and maybe it is. They always quote the Highland Towers and Bukit Antarabangsa incidents.

We mostly have level two, level three and level four. We need to check on that because some may develop level two and three and leave behind level four.

We cannot allow that to happen because it is dangerous. It is the common misconception that if we leave it alone it will not collapse. However, I have seen untouched hills collapsing. When it rains, trees may fall and sooner or later erosion will happen.

At the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) if the area is above 35 degrees and is a continuous highland we will never allow it to be developed even if the Housing and Local Government Ministry allows 10%.

However, if people touch the hill slightly below the stipulated level we would like to know all the technical aspects of their projects.

We want to know from geotechnical consultants about the design and the type of wall used. The safety factor for all slope and hillslide development is a minimum of 1.5 and places like Hong Kong and Switzerland are able to build under similar factors because it has the same physical features. The question is how do they manage the slope?

First of all we must have the complete data on the slope. For that we have to work with several departments including Mineral and Geoscience and the slope division under the Works Department.

We always advise the consultants and developers to be conservative especially in putting extra weightage in designing. To ensure we cover all the aspects. We invite IKRAM to help us to monitor the design.

Bear in mind we only allow 50% of the said land called the clean area to be developed and not 100%.

After we have approved the design we will check on the implementation. There are certain procedures that developers must ensure, including that the working hours do not disturb residents, the lorries coming in and out of the site have to be washed properly and they have to beef up safety especially during heavy rain.

Many times, developers fail to adhere to these simple rules and people lose trust in them. I think we may resort to issuing stop-work orders to contractors if we receive at least two complaints from residents.

Apart from that, there has to be proper drainage and a buffer zone of 4.5m to 5m at least from the houses.

With the buffer zone and a caisson wall, we will have an early warning system in the event of a landslip.

Finally in the third stage it is our responsibility and the developer’s to ensure that maintenance is carried out.

The DBKL is always in a dilemma because people think we are biased but that is not the case. The developers are the land owners, they have to pay for the land, assessment and the quit rent.

Under the present Act if we do not allow the development we will have to pay them. Just imagine how many lands in KL fall under the level two and level three categories. I personally feel we cannot afford to acquire the land because it is too big and our priority is to provide services for the people.

However, that does not mean the developers can build what they want. We only allow low-density development so they have to decide on the money spent for the buffer zone and if they think they can earn profits at the end of the day we will come in.

This does not only generate income it also creates a safety net for the people. I personally believe that this is an opportunity for people to get involved and know about the slope located near their house.

Developers can use us as a mediator to talk to the people. Everyone has a role to play and together we can understand the problems each other faces.

We have to be practical and choose between two options, leave the hill the way it is or put up a good structure that can maintain the safety factor. The topic is still open for discussion.