TheSun – May 4, 2011

Sports columnist BOB HOLMES who lives near Bukit Gasing witnesses the slow destruction of what he fears is his home.

The main swathe of bungalows is planned for the KL side right above Cameron and Maxwell Towers and the houses of Gasing Indah. As if the slope were not forbidding enough, it has 23 million litres of water in the reservoir sitting right on top.

DEATH AND TAXES, they say, are the only real certainties in life. I would like to suggest a third – hillside development.

Like the other two, no matter what we do to avoid it, no matter how many dire warnings there are of its dangers, it gets us in the end. Like the Grim Reaper and the tax man, it is a relentless foe, raking as ruthlessly over us as the bulldozers do over the land. Take Bukit Gasing, which is not merely a development but includes the moving of a mountain.

Even before the legalities have been decided,even before the voice of the people at the foot of this particular hillside has been heard – if it ever is – the brochures have been printed, sales, it is claimed, have been made and the fence posts are going in. Nails in a coffin? The metaphor is apt but the victims are not dead yet. They are not even lying down; they are standing up and shouting. Yet they are not being heard.

Jumping the gun may be the normal modus operandi for a developer but what is particularly alarming about Bukit Gasing is that the authorities have turned a deaf ear to the victims’ cries. If Kuala Lumpur is serious about becoming a world-class city, why is DBKL allowing this to happen? The hillside continues to crumble before their eyes; yet the people are being denied their constitutional right of a public hearing.

Sixteen times the residents have been to court but last December their case was thrown out on a technicality. That just five of the 108 signatories to the petition had been challenged by the developer affected the judge’s view.

Why are the developer, Gasing Meridian, and DBKL so desperate to avoid such a hearing? You have to ask. Is it fear of hearing the long list of landslides that happen almost every time it rains? Is it fear of hearing the independent surveys that warn of dire consequences if the hill is touched? Or is it hearing that 5,000 lives are being risked so a few can get rich quick by building homes for 71 multi-millionaires?

Whichever – and it’s probably a combination of all three – the victims are not actually being ignored: they are being threatened. Adding the final insult, as it were, the developer is talking of suing the residents for delaying the project?

Bukit Gasing is made of the same stuff (sandstone and shale) as Highland Towers and Bukit Antarabangsa and we all know what happened there. “Never again” was the knee-jerk reaction to those tragedies. Never again would willy-nilly developments be allowed on such dodgy ground.

Both the University of Malaya’s Department of Geology and Geological Society Malaysia cautioned against building on these steep and slippery slopes. And Prof Dr Ibrahim Komoo of UKM Geology Dept told TV3 in November 2006: “If there were to be any building, it is likely to cause a tragedy.”

The frequency of landslides in recent years suggests there were not idle warnings. A drive up the Siva Temple on Jalan 5/64 reveals several sites where landslides caused bungalow projects to be abandoned after extensive pilings. The pillars stick out like sore thumbs.

Already there has been one major landslide from the temple itself down into the outside car park at Fraser Towers. Repairs were done to the slope (on the Selangor side) which is now almost grown over but residents saw diggers dumping large stones and small boulders into nearby trees. One said: “It was like nature stockpiling her ammunition.”

Just behind the temple in January, on the Kuala Lumpur side, a huge slippage cascaded a distance of 160m, stopping just short of the pumping station to the hilltop reservoir; another smaller one, but requiring a plastic sheet to help prevent further spillage, occurred on Jalan 5/60 in Petaling Jaya, the only way into Fraser Towers.

It’s next to a sign saying “Parcel 86” – yes, this plot of sliding land is designated for individual development. It’s near the spot where access was totally blocked by another slippage in the 1990s. And that’s just along from where yet another caused an entire road, Jalan 5/62, to be abandoned.

The main swathe of bungalows is planned for the KL side right above Cameron and Maxwell Towers and the houses of Gasing Indah. As if the slope were not forbidding enough, it has 23 million litres of water in the reservoir sitting right on top.

Down below people already shudder every time it rains. But the developer claims to have a solution – where the gradient exceeds the limit they will resculpt the hill. In layman’s language, it is slicing off the top. By their own calculations (in a preliminary EIA), it will require 760,000 metric tones of earth to be removed. The narrow, traffic-choked streets below can no longer cope as it is, what more when hundreds of lorries moving a mountain are added to the jam?

This nightmare is about to unfold unless sanity can prevail. Naturally, the developer has a flashy brochure and website extolling the virtues of their lofty paradise. Among the saccharine prose are these classic: “Imagine… a breeze caressing your face… being bedazzled by the constellations of stars that fill your skies…” while it is stressed that “environmentally friendly features have been carefully researched for each home, to sustain Mother Nature for a better tomorrow”.

Even if you have read that without throwing up, you may still not be able to stomach this: “The project,” it is claimed, “will play its role to consolidate and improve the environment of residential developments in its zone, thereby contributing to the overall aim of making Kuala Lumpur a world-class city.”

If endangering 5,000 for the sake of 71 and, let’s face it, the 71 may not be safe either, equates to “world-class”; if razing a forest “improves the environment”, then someone is already bedazzled by those constellations.

Meanwhile back on planet earth, the residents have appealed for a hearing and wait with bated breath for the verdict.

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