Cracks are showing – and Penang islanders get the jitters

Asia's Tech News Daily

© Provided by Free Malaysia Today A Proton Saga belonging to a resident at Lengkok Halia, Tanjung Bungah fell into a river during a landslip behind a row of homes on Oct 1. (Bukit Bendera MP Wong Hon Wai/FB pic)

GEORGE TOWN: A series of landslips in different parts of the island has raised fears among Penangites, with many wondering if things will get worse with rampant development and climate change.

In the first incident, the back lane of a row of houses on Lengkok Halia in Tanjung Bungah caved in, swallowing a resident’s car and utility poles.

No one was hurt in the Oct 1 incident, but with their back doors just metres from the cave-in, the residents are concerned.

A day earlier, the city council had acted on a complaint from a resident that cracks had started to appear on their back lanes and urged them to remove their cars.

A resident met by FMT said the city council had alerted them about a possible cave-in, towing away five cars. However, a Proton Saga fell into the gaping hole as the back lane caved in before it could be towed away.

The resident, who did not give his name, said it was the first time such an incident had taken place in his 30 years there, adding that he suspected a newly-completed high-rise was to blame.

The incident also saw telephone and internet service to seven homes cut off for a few days, with utility poles also being swallowed in the landslip.

Tanjung Bungah hiking spot littered with boulders

Just a few days later, a favourite hiking path among locals at Pearl Hill, also in Tanjung Bungah, saw a mini landslip, with large boulders being dislodged from the slopes.

The area is also home to the affluent, with many bungalows dotting its hill slopes.

Swathes of mud could be spotted along Puncak Bukit Mutiara 1, with one slope near a luxury bird’s nest-type bungalow badly eroded.

© Provided by Free Malaysia Today One of many landslips along Puncak Bukit Mutiara 1, Tanjung Bungah. The road is a favourite hiking track for locals.

The owner of the bungalow told FMT that contractors had been hired to look into the matter. He said the slope had been declared safe.

Another resident said while the dislodging of boulders was common from time to time, tree clearing on the hill had likely been the reason for the landslip after a downpour.

Cracks appear at apartment on riverbank

While the earlier two landslips were near the beachfront, another large 15m crack appeared at an apartment in the interior, on the banks of Sungai Air Itam, near the Scotland Road-Batu Gantong neighbourhood last week.

According to a resident of the Taman Harmoni Apartment, the crack had extended since Oct 9 at their open field, stopping just a metre from their block.

Checks by FMT showed the crack was at least 15m long and some 3m from the river. The 1,300 sq ft green area has been cordoned off, with 10 car park lots closed.

© Provided by Free Malaysia Today A picture by a reader showing the extent of the crack at the Taman Harmoni Apartment near the Batu Gantong-Scotland Road neighbourhood.

The apartment’s building supervisor refused to comment but a resident of a double-storey house nearby said the cracks came as no surprise.

Kok Sook Ee, 56, said that in her four decades living at Jalan Sekolah La Salle, the collapse of the riverbank had become very common.

“Since the 1990s, many apartments have been built on our green spaces, including riverbanks. This has led to flooding in our neighbourhood. I wonder if things are about to get worse,” she said.

Tanjung Bungah Residents Association president Zulfikar Ali Shri Abdul Aziz said the landslips in their area were caused by incremental problems due to a lack of monitoring.

He said that with three authorities – the city council, drainage and irrigation department (DID), and the land office – having varying jurisdiction on land reserves and riverbanks, rectification work might involve a lot of red tape.

The former city councillor said an all-agency approach was needed to ensure all the sensitive areas are covered.

Government agencies working on repairs, says Penang govt

In response to the three incidents, Penang infrastructure and utility committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari gave details on what is being done:

Lengkok Halia landslip: A CCTV camera has been placed on location to monitor the situation. A condominium developer next to the river will install markers to observe any soil movements behind the homes. The public works department (JKR) and DID will be coming up with plans to repair the eroded site.

Pearl Hill landslip: JKR has cleared the affected areas of mud but some boulders have yet to be removed. The city council has issued a nuisance notice to landowners to repair the slopes urgently.

Sungai Air Itam riverbank crack: A leak in the retaining wall of the river has caused the collapse and hence the crack. The erosion is said to have worsened over 10 years. A DID engineer was coming up with a solution and sheet piles will be driven down to the bed of the river to hold up the land.

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