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They also question City Hall’s lack of open discussion on development project

MONDAY, MARCH 05, 2012 – 14:37

KUALA LUMPUR: The Joint Action Committee (JAC) for Bukit Gasing wants Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to release the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report on the proposed development on the hill.

Yesterday, about 100 residents affected by the proposed development in Gasing Indah (on the Kuala Lumpur side) gathered to press their case, ahead of a Court of Appeal decision tomorrow.

The residents applied for a judicial review in the High Court in 2008 challenging City Hall’s approval of the development. However, they were denied the right to be heard and appealed against the decision in the Court of Appeal.

Spokesman for the joint committee Gary Yeoh, 57, said: “I am questioning why was there no public hearing by City Hall before approval.

“In November 2007, during a meeting with City Hall, they told us the land had been subdivided but no development will be granted to the developer.

“The following month, we received a letter from City Hall stating the development will continue without a public hearing.”

He said so far more than 108 petitions from residents from the surrounding communities were sent to the developer and City Hall since 2007.

“We are not against development but we want City Hall to provide us with the EIA report for safety and security reasons.

“If they continue with the project, it will adversely affect the ecology and environment of Bukit Gasing and our safety,” he said.

Also present were Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar and PJ South MP Hee Loy Sian.

JAC and other representatives of residents’ associations have opposed Meridian Sdn Bhd’s (GMSB) proposed development since early 2006, for fear of landslides and safety issues.

It is said that since 1993, there have been 14 major landslides, with press reports that indicated at least 68 fatalities apart from the millions of ringgit in loses.

JAC’s is helping to pay for legal costs by pooling resources from residents and through charity drives.

Tomorrow, the Court of Appeal gives its verdict on the appeal against the 15.52 ha hillside development project at the KL side.

Meanwhile, Nurul Izzah said she sent a letter to KL mayor (Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail) recently requesting the release of the EIA report.

“At least, with the EIA report, we were able to know the present condition of the area that is to developed — the residents want reassurance the surrounding areas are safe from danger,” she said.

She said she does not want a repeat of the hillside tragedy of Bukit Antarabangsa and Medan Damansara.

As for Hee, he said the matter was brought to the attention of Parliament and the Federal Territories and Urban Well-being Ministry.

“However Datuk Raja Nong Chik Zainal Abidin has yet to give his answer on the approval of this project.

Mages: Forest slowly losing beauty

R. MAGESWARA, 34, said the beauty of this forest was about to be stripped if development continued.

“Everyday I sit at my balcony watching workers level the hill slope.

Another resident Mohamed Kamar Mohamed (pic), 68 said he is not against development but residents have a right to express their opinion through public hearing.

Mohamed Kamar Mohamed

“From the public hearing, Kuala Lumpur City Hall will be able to get our opinion on the issue. We want City Hall to certify the project is safe and at the same time, preserve our forest.”

Mohamed who has been living at Fraser tower since the last eight years said a lot of changes (development) took place on Bukit Gasing.

Resident Dr A. Mallika, 58 and her daughter A. Gayathri, 27 said the development would also destroy wildlife in Bukit Gasing forest.

Gayathri said four years ago the scenery from her house balcony was beautiful.

“I used to see monkeys swinging from tree to tree,” she said, urging the project be scrapped.

http://www.mmail.com.my/story/hill-residents-want-report-made-public

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Kuala Lumpur – October 10, 2011

DBKL signed yet another death warrant on Bukit Gasing (KL side) back in October 2007 and in January 2008 approved earthworks on the hill. These actions were taken without any objections public hearing. DBKL even denied any development approvals were given at a meeting between concerned residents and them in November 2007.

Concerned residents against the proposed development filed for a Judicial Review (JR) in February 2008 against DBKL after DBKL officially denied them the rights to a public hearing. DBKL and the developer challenged the right of the High Court (YA Datuk Lau Bee Lan) to hear the JR, resulting in a 2 year delay before the JR hearing was held. Sadly, in September 2010, a different High Court Judge ruled against the concerned residents. However, an appeal against the decision was filed and the appeal hearing has been set for 12th.December, 2011.

Gasing Meridian started the destruction of trees on Bukit Gasing before end of August 2011. The pictures below shows the current rate of destruction of the forest on the steep hill slopes.

It seems that for DBKL, residents have fewer rights than developers. Their fear of risks to their lives and homes are secondary to the rights of land owners. The deaths and destruction of homes in Highland Towers and in Bukit Antarabangsa are of no concern to DBKL.

It is a sad fact that DBKL and the Federal Territory minister are more intent on development of KL without paying heed to the quality of living, good environmental planning, sustainable development and much more that are required to make KL City a world class city.

To wit, in Medan Damansara, DBKL claimed that the building of 21 bungalows on steep hill slopes were safe. It took a huge landslide that almost claimed the lives of a family there for them to issue a stop work order. Unsurprisingly, it was determined that DBKL had not adequately reviewed the development plans. The developer can now only build 16 bungalows. Now DBKL is in negotiations to compensate the developer for the loss of 5 bungalows at KL rate payers’ expense.

In the meantime, residents at the foot hill of the proposed development will have to live in fear of landslides during rainy seasons.

DBKL is under the control of the Federal Government. We can only wonder to the reality of a more open government when DBKL is permitted to ignore genuine concerns of residents of potentially unsafe and unsustainable developments.

Bukit Gasing should be preserved substantially as a green heritage for KL city and future generations in KL and Petaling Jaya. What will it take before DBKL and the Federal Government step up to the challenge of providing more transparent and responsible town planning? Perhaps another carnage from landslides at Bukit Gasing?

Gary Yeoh – JAC for Bukit Gasing.

 

More Phtotos here….

 

The article below was sent to a major MSM, but was not published and is put here to record ongoing residents’ concern for public safety.

The saga of Siva Temple and landslides epitomize how our authorities have failed the public in so many ways. Sadly, it’s just one of many examples all over the country where our authorities failed in their duties of implementing proper planning approvals and enforcement of laws. Steep hill slope developments present real and imminent risks to lives. Yet, year after year, we continue to see landslides caused by hill slope developments whilst the authorities continue to bow to hill slope developers’ demand for profit over lives and sustainable environment.

What is often forgotten is that hill slope developments leave in place time bombs that await the unsuspecting public. Highland Towers, Hulu Klang, Medan Damansara, Bukit Antarabangsa and the most recent tragic Ulu Langat orphanage disaster are all ample proof of failure of our authorities in enforcement of laws and regulations.

Siva Temple extensions caused its first landslide in March 2007. Despite the extensions being found to be illegal, it had remained and whatever remedial and risk mitigation works that were supposed to have been put in placed were so lacking that it resulted in a further landslide in January 2011. Warnings by concerned residents to the pending disaster back in 2007 were all in vain.

Whilst residents applaud the efforts of Derek Fernandez (councillor for the area) in ensuring that the exposed slopes are protected against further erosion, it must rest squarely on MBPJ to enforce the law. We wait with baited breath for much more substantial and tangible actions to be taken to right the wrong that has been inflicted against public safety and the beauty of Bukit Gasing.

The Siva Temple landslides should ring alarm bells to the public at how lacking our authorities are in monitoring potential risk zones and the prompt enforcement of laws to protect public safety. We now have to keep our fingers crossed that the “Aprons of Bukit Gasing” will be enough to prevent further landslides and risks to the Syabas pump station whilst MBPJ enforcement officers and Siva Temple committees hold meetings and discussions.

Notwithstanding the above remarks, we thank Derek Fernandez for his assertiveness in ensuring MBPJ acts to prevent the exposed slopes from becoming a mud flow.

As residents facing the threat of development on the steep hill slopes of Bukit Gasing, we continue to be alarm at how Bukit Gasing is reminding us all that we should leave it alone. Will DBKL take note of what is happening? Given the ample signs of instability of exposed slopes and buildings on Bukit Gasing, will DBKL now admit that they have a duty to give us a hearing before development is allowed?

DBKL approved the development of Medan Damansara 21. However, after the landslides and aprons on the steep hill slopes, the development had to reduce number of properties planned from 21 to 16 units for safety reasons. Yet, the developer sued DBKL and the Mayor of DBKL is seeking to settle it out of court. No doubt any payments to the developer will be at the expense of KL ratepayers.

The saga of Siva Temple, Ulu Langat and Medan Damansara landslides are warnings to the public that we can no longer rely on our authorities to do right for the safety of the public. Evidence abounds at how our authorities place developers’ rights over the public’s rights to live without fear of death by slope failures.

Gary Yeoh
JAC for Bukit Gasing

Yesterday’s blog (13th Oct) attracted a spike of visits to the site. I wondered why. Is it the cute acronym of “FoS”.  So, I shall continue the winning streak and retain the magic word. After all, DBKL and FT Ministry officials clearly feel that it’s a good mantra for steep hill slope development safety.

DBKL, in championing FoS and GP WPKL, has now ruled that Damansara 21 shall now be Damansara 16. Did the 16 agencies supporting DBKL made an error of 31% in earlier approval?  Suppose we apply the same margin of error (say before homes get destroyed), the FoS should be increased by 31%.  Now, this would mean a FoS of 1.965.

Wah lah, what do you know? If you read the Wikipedia definition of FoS in my earlier blog, the common FoS for each structural member in a building is 2.0.  Amazingly close to the FoS 1.965 figure above?

Did you know that a buffer zone of 4.5 metres is shorter than the length of a Proton Perdana?

Fascinated by FoS touted by DBKL and FT & Urban Well-Being Ministry, I called a geotechnical engineer contact for his views.  Neh, now is not the time to talk about that.  However, it occurred to me that a variation of the acronym for FoS, i.e. “Factor of Stupidity”, could equally apply. Consider the below:

  • DBKL slope engineering unit has an engineer, two geologist and technical assistants for slope (figure given Datuk Ahmad Phesal Talib – Secretary-General of FT & Urban Well-Being Ministry)
  • There are 24,221ha of hill slope areas in KL to be monitored by team of 3?
  • National Slope Master Plan says information it has is insufficient for landslide hazard analysis, such as failure dimension and causes of failure.
  • Only 13 geotechnical experts registered as accredited engineers by Board of Engineers Malaysia
  • Many of our hill slope landslides are due to poor construction and supervision, but we have heard nothing about tightening up on monitoring of contractors, developers and mandatory supervision of constructions.

Well, I guess I still have some way to go to understand the legendary wisdom of our leaders. 😉

Gary Yeoh – JAC for Bukit Gasing.

It was reported in the Malay Mail and The Sun that the Medan Damansara (Damansara 21) development has been approved and that the GP WPKL 2010 (DBKL’s special recipe for safe hill slope development) will ensure approved developments will be safe.

Here are some of the special benefits of the GP WPKL 2010:

  • It will now be Damansara 16 not 21 [phew, someone remembered not to select no 14]
  • FoS of slopes when completed will be between 1.4 to 2.9 [oops, somebody used no 14]
  • New “U-Drain” to be included [oh yes, “U-turn” on concern for Medan Damansara safety]
  • Buffer of 4.5 meters [so landslide debris better not be too much and hope there are no swimming pools]

Of late, DBKL and Federal Territories and Urban Well-Being Ministry Secretary General Datuk Ahmad Phesal Talib have been loudly proclaiming that the FoS (Factor of Safety) of not less than 1.5 stipulated in the GP WPKL 2010 will ensure safe hill developments.  So, how true is this?

Visit this site for a definition of Factor of Safety and you will find that FoS are only as good as the prediction of assumed load and the environmental conditions that walls and structures built for hill slope developments are supposed to withstand.  The use of a Factor of Safety does not imply that an item, structure, or design is “safe”.

The National Slope Master Plan (published in Sept 2009) acknowledged that available information is insufficient for landslide hazard analysis, such as failure dimension and causes of failure. It also highlighted the lack of resources and skills in government agencies. So, is GP WPKL 2010 a recipe for safe hill slope development or a disaster for residents?

Read the reports below and ponder if KL will ever become a world class city. Let’s forget about the tropical garden city bit as it is quite clear that DBKL have no desire for greenery.

Cabinet okays Damansara 21 project/Stop at 16 (The Sun)

Damansara 21 project still can’t resume yet (The Malay Mail)

Do read the following for my views on DBKL’s GP WPKL 2010:

Geotechnical Checker – A fair deal from DBKL ? Part I

Geotechnical Checker – A fair deal from DBKL ? Part II

Gary Yeoh – JAC for Bukit Gasing.

2010/09/16 – NST

AS a resident of Maxwell Towers, I would like to respond to the disingenuous letter from Zhang C.G. on Sept 14. Our judicial review was on our right to a public hearing before City Hall can issue development orders to Gasing Meridian Sdn Bhd, and whether approvals issued were consistent with development guidelines.

It is incredible that deaths resulting from the Highland Towers (1993), Hillview (2002), Kampung Pasir (2006) and Bukit Antarabangsa (2008) tragedies could be written off as “the few unfortunate landslides”. To compare our fears for our lives and homes to a demand to close highways is just ridiculous.

Mainstream media have reported 141 deaths resulting from landslides caused by development from 1993 to 2008 in Peninsular Malaysia. Were these testaments of the safety our hillslope developments and the local authority’s diligence in ensuring safe and sustainable development?
Comparing the safety of hillslope developments in Hong Kong to what prevails in Malaysia is laughable. Hong Kong has a government-funded Geotechnical Engineering Organization (GEO) dedicated to hillslope development safety. Hong Kong created GEO in 1977 to identify unstable hillslopes, repair them and ensure that high standards are kept on hillslope developments.

We have DBKL approving the Damasara 21 development at Medan Damansara that resulted in the collapse of a retaining wall, causing significant damage to two homes in August 2008. We have hillslope developments designed by developer-funded consultants, building contractors whose reputations are suspect, and woeful monitoring of their construction by agencies.

Datuk Prof Dr Ibrahim Komoo had said on NTV7 in Nov 2006: “If there were to be any building (reference to the proposed site), it is likely to cause a tragedy”.
The landslides at Bukit Gasing at the Siva and Sri Maha Kaliaman temples in 2007 and March 2010, respectively, showed the wisdom of his comment.

In addition, independent studies by the Department of Geology, University of Malaya and Geological Survey Malaysia had highlighted that the natural constitution of Bukit Gasing is not suitable for any sort of building development.

We are not a bunch of crazed lobbyists fighting for green lung preservation, nor are we denying landowners their rights.
We seek only for DBKL to recognize our right to be heard and for DBKL to provide information on how the proposed development on Bukit Gasing is safe and sustainable as provided under the Town & Country Planning Act 172 (TCPA) and approved in accordance with guidelines for hillslope developments. The TCPA (amendment) Act 2001 (Act 1129) sought to bring consistency to town and country planning in Peninsular Malaysia.

It also implements the role of the National Physical Planning Council (chaired by the prime minister) in ensuring that the national policy for sustainable development and town and country planning matters is followed.

Developers and landowners’ rights cannot rest solely on their rights to profits. The public’s right to safe developments on hillslopes and the development’s impact on the natural/living environment are equally important.

If these were not so, why bother with having planning authorities?

GARY YEOHBukit Gasing resident

Read more: Public’s right to safe development also important http://www.nst.com.my/nst/articles/gostg/Article#ixzz0zs1Ialic

 

Friday, 10 Sep 2010

A tree have fallen across Jln 5/60 due to strong winds early this morning (approx 3am), a closer look at the photo will reveal how steep the slope is. Forces of nature may from time to time cause trees to fall.  However, vegetation and root systems will hold the soil in place as evidenced by lack of erosion. Conservation management will further sustain the beauty of the our enviroment and its sustainablity.
 
Man’s wanton development for profits thwart nature’s means of keeping steep slopes safe.  Do you wish to rely on planning authorities and developers  assurances of retaining walls and man-made drainage (frequently not maintained and poorly designed)? Remember Medan Damansara, Bukit Antarabangsa, Ulu Klang and Amanah Raya.
 
Let’s unite to “Stop Greed, Save Bukit Gasing, Save Lives”

Many thanks and regards
Gary Yeoh

  
  
2010/09/08
By Noel Achariam
streets@nstp.com.my
 

Residents have been against the development on Bukit Gasing since 2008. — File picture

 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  

 

A High Court ruling to allow development on Bukit Gasing has sparked an outcry among residents and concerned parties.High Court Judge Datuk Aziah Ali on Monday rejected the application by 108 Bukit Gasing residents for a judicial review to challenge the development order issued by the Kuala Lumpur mayor for the controversial hillslope project by Gasing Meridian Sdn Bhd (GMSB) in their area, which is one of the few green lungs near Kuala Lumpur.

The High Court had ruled that GMSB can proceed to develop the Sanctuary Ridge Kuala Lumpur City project comprising 70 bungalows on a 15.5ha site in Bukit Gasing here.
Justice Aziah who made the decision in chambers ruled that based on the Federal Territory (Planning) Act 1982, the 108 residents did not have the right to be heard for the development.

In 2008, 108 residents filed the application for judicial review to quash the development order by the Kuala Lumpur mayor.

The mayor, in an order dated Oct 2, 2007, issued to GMSB, allowed the developer to carry out earth works and sub-divisions in the area.
In their application, the residents claimed that the mayor had failed to take into account that they had the right to be given due notice.

The residents added that they must be given a chance to voice their opinions in the decision-making process of planning.

Gasing Joint Action Committee coordinator Gary Yeoh said the residents were unhappy and would likely appeal against the decision.
“We will have to talk to the residents and decide on our next course of action. We believe that it is the fundamental right of the residents to know how this development will affect them.

“We are disappointed with the mayor’s attitude. All we are asking for is a public hearing. The residents on the Petaling Jaya side of the hill are also concerned about the impact of the development on them.

“A recent extension to the Sivan Temple at Bukit Gasing had resulted in a 300m landslip. We hope the authorities will not compromise our safety,” he said.

Petaling Jaya councillor Derek Fernandez said he was unhappy with the decision of the High Court.

“All the residents wanted was the right to be heard before a decision is made on the development of the hillslope. Residents and neighbouring land owners feel that the development will pose a threat to their safety.

“We will respect the court’s decision and wait to hear what the residents plan to do next,” he said.

Fernandez said it was the basic right of people to be heard when development was taking place next to their homes.

“Our conscience is clear as we have done everything within our power to inform the local authority of the great danger in allowing development on Bukit Gasing.

“If anything happens, it is on their hands. They cannot blame the developer, engineer or office boy anymore. They will have to take full responsibility. The office of the mayor will be held accountable should a disaster like a landslide occurs,” he said.

Bukit Gasing state assemblyman Edward Lee was equally disappointed with the court’s decision.

“We hope the residents will not to give up as we look at other ways to present this case to the courts.

Lee also said that the residents should be given an opportunity to voice their grievances.

“At the end of the day, the interest of the public should be protected.

“However, all is not lost. The residents should make a fresh appeal,” he said.

Medan Damansara Residents’ Association secretary Peter Raiappan said that he was shocked at the outcome of the decision to allow the hillslope development.

“This is tragic, especially for the residents who are trying to save and preserve the environment. We are looking at the government to preserve nature, instead they are allowing development on a hillslope. This is a major setback for all residents. We are now unsure if we will suffer the same fate,” he said.

Medan Damansara residents have been protesting against a hillside development in their area for the past four years.

A landslip in the area last year forced two families to evacuate their homes.

The Damansara 21 project there consists of 21 bungalows priced between RM10 million and RM15 million each.

Read more: Sanctuary no more http://www.nst.com.my/nst/articles/gonago/Article/#ixzz0ywS4Szyv

 

As many would have read in the MSM, our Judicial Review to compel DBKL to allow us a public hearing and stop Gasing Meridian Sdn Bhd’s proposed development on Bukit Gasing has failed based on the ruling by Judge Aziah bte Ali. It would appear that the judge supports DBKL’s view that the Town & Country Planning (amendment) Act 2001 (that had provided the basis for the whole of peninsular Malaysia,  explicitly including the Federal Territories, to be governed by a common planning regulation) does not apply to KL. The Town & Country Planning Act would have required DBKL to grant us a public hearing.

We, residents affected by the proposed development were only seeking DBKL to allow a public hearing so as to understand how such a development on steep hill slopes (almost 50% of the hill is above 25 degrees gradient) can be safe and not be a “time bomb” for landslides and disasters.  Previous mayors that had understood the dangers presented by the development and would not to allow development on Bukit Gasing. Why did the Mayor of KL of 2007 (Datuk Ab Hakim Borhan) and the current Mayor (Dato’ Ahmad Fuad Ismail) felt that Gasing Meridian’s proposed development is safe in the light of Bukit Antarabangsa, Medan Damansara and the Amanah Raya disasters? Why avoid being transparent on their approval process and hide under legal arguments to avoid public scrutiny?

Judge Aziah bte Ali had delivered her judgement in her chambers and we were not privy to her reasons for supporting DBKL.  Will she publish and make available her full judgement in the next few days as reported by Malaysiakini? Should we give up?  I hope not.

Yes, the communities at Bukit Gasing had been dealt a blow.  However, I am reminded of retired Judge NH Chan’s many articles on flaws in court judgements and his challenges to the current Judiciary. The communities at Bukit Gasing and the general public have to face the question of whether we should demand and fight for deliver of justice in our Nation.

We cannot and should not remain silent. Instead, we must continue the fight to regain our rights to have safe and sustainable developments in our nation.  I hope you readers will help spread our disappointment and perhaps encourage and help us continue our fight.

Gary Yeoh – JAC for Bukit Gasing.

The High Court is set to deliver its judgement on the Judicial Review filed by 108 applicants representing communities in Gasing Condos (Fraser, Cameron and Maxwell), Gasing Indah (both KL and PJ sides) back in February 2008.

The Judicial Review was made initially to challenge DBKL’s decision to deny affected residents the right to a public hearing. In the course of the hearing, it became known that DBKL had approved development orders for Gasing Meridian Sdn Bhd (GMSB) to build some 68 multi-million ringgit bungalows on the steep hill slopes of Bukit Gasing under DBKL’s jurisdiction. This resulted in a change to the Judicial Review to include decision by DBKL to issue GMSB a development order.

This blog has written about the tactics of DBKL and the developer to derail residents’ right to a judicial review over the years. They had refused to accept the clearly written judgement of the then High Court Judge, Madam Lau Bee Lan in April 2009 and had appealed against her grant of leave for the Judicial Review. Their appeals to Court of Appeal and Federal Court failed. The Federal Court set an exemplary charge on DBKL and Gasing Meridian for legal costs of RM20K each of their failed Federal Court hearing.

Having failed in their arguments that the Judicial Review was filed “out of time” (using deception and by being “economical with the truth”) they had attempted to argue that the High Court had no locus standi to accept the Judicial Review.

One of the core arguments in the Judicial Review was that Town and Country Planning ( Amendment) Act 2001, passed by the Parliament that brings Federal Territories into uniformity with the rest of the country, should have been applied by DBKL with respect to its approval of GMSB proposed development on Bukit Gasing.  DBKL continues to argue they have the right to ignore wishes of our Parliament.

The Mayor of Kuala Lumpur, Datuk Ahmad Fuad Ismail, had recently commented in The Star of how carefully DBKL considers steep hill slope developments. If that is so, how is it that lives were almost lost at Medan Damansara in August 2008? What about the failure of retaining walls at Amanah Raya on Jalan Semantan in December 2008? Will Bukit Gasing be another Damansara 21 in the making?

The Mayor of Kuala Lumpur talks about gazetting of Bukit Gasing as forest reserves and not allowing developments on Bukit Gasing, Yet, all the areas marked in the much challenged Draft KL City Plan seems on the way to being approved.  Is DBKL continuing the policy of being “economical with the truth” ?

Residents in Bukit Antarabangsa, Taman Melawati, Medan Damansara and many other areas on hill slopes live in fear. Yet, authorities continue to champion the land owners’ right to make profit at the expense of safety of people and sustainable development.

Residents under threat from GMSB proposed development and DBKL’s refusal to acknowledge genuine residents’ fears await the High Court to deliver a judgement that puts  planning authorities on notice to act transparently and in act in accordance with the law.

Will you come and stand with us to send a loud and clear message that we want authorities and developers to ensure safe and sustainable development? If you do, please come to the KL High Court Complex, Rayuan & Kuasa-Kuasa Khas (RKK 1 court room) level 3 on Monday, 6th September 2010 at 2:30pm

Gary Yeoh – JAC for Bukit Gasing.

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