Wednesday, 10 December 2008

The view from the hillside

The front page of today's The Star newspaper has the photograph of some residents of Medan Damansara protesting about a hillslope development near their homes. In light of the disaster that happened at Bukit Antarabangsa on Saturday, the protesters want the project to be stopped. The Prime Minister has already announced that all hillside developments to be halted. I've read that in Penang, the authorities have issued such directives to developers.

At the risk of stating the obvious, haven't we heard all this before? It is not our typical Malaysian culture to react (or over-react, as the case may be) only after disaster has befallen us? Have we forgotten Highland Towers? Did we also forget that last year a landslide at Kg. Pasir Ulu Kelang buried a squatter settlement?

Our former Prime Minister coined the famous phrase `Melayu mudah lupa'. I would suggest that we modify the phrase to `Orang Malaysia mudah lupa'. Because, I can guarantee you, a few years on, the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide will just become another historical event. The hillside developments will continue and we will never learn our lesson.

Erecting buildings or structures on hillsides or slopes, in itself, should not be a problem. The world is not flat and we cannot totally avoid construction on hills or mountain sides. Countries like Japan, that has more mountainous regions than flat ones, have been building houses, highways and bridges on slopes for years. There are always engineering solutions to slope construction problems but if we fail to observe the rules and take short-cut measures, then disasters will happen. I believe we already have the necessary regulations and legislations relating to hillside construction. There is also no shortage of geotechnical engineers or soil experts in Malaysia either. So why do we continue to experience such misfortune? I guess there is no need for me to answer this one, you guys probably know the answer already.

Hillside houses and condominiums are built (and will continue to be built) because there is a demand. The main draw of such dwellings is the breathtaking view. I was in Penang last week and while driving on the Batu Ferringhi road, I can see many upmarket condos being built on the steep hillside. I can bet you, the view of the sea from one of the high-altitude units is `worth a million bucks'.

Misty view of the Kuala Lumpur skyline as seen from Bukit Antarabangsa

When my family and I travel to KL, we usually put up at my brother-in-law's place at Bukit Antarabangsa. Indeed we were there on Saturday when the landslide occured. Early that morning, my wife received a phone call from another relative telling us of the event and worrying if we were trapped. We quickly had a look outside to determine where exactly the slope failure had occurred. Thankfully, the access road to my brother-in-law's house was not affected.

Unfortunately, those living on the upper reaches of Bukit Antarabangsa were trapped and had no way out. All of them were later asked to vacate their homes because the electricity supply had been cut off. Because there was no vehicular access, they had to trudge out on foot through wet and slippery uphill tracks created by the rescue authorities.

I personally know three persons who had to make that trek. One is a former colleague, another is an old schoolmate and the third is my own cousin. The sad thing was that my cousin's wife just gave birth a few weeks ago (masih dalam hari lagi, kata orang Melayu). Mother and baby had to be assisted out of the area.

I feel very sad for all those who had to endure the hardship and my condolences to the victims. And for the tragedy to happen close to Hari Raya Korban... May Allah grant all of you patience to face this trial and sacrifice.

Update @ 21:15 Hours :

For a first hand account of the incident, read Dr. Rafick's blog entry -> here.

11 comments:

Patricia said...

Oldstock,

I am so glad to hear that you and your family are safe.

And you are right: In a couple of years, this will be forgotten. And there will be resumed building on hill slopes.

And then, another tragedy will strike. And more lives will be lost.

And someone 'important' will say: No more building on hill slopes! And we will all say, 'Yah!' Again.

We haven't learnt.

Pat

masterwordsmith said...

Oldstock,

Indeed, I am glad you and your family plus your loved ones are safe.

When the dust settles, history will repeat itself because for the parties that matter, their memory is short while for those whose lives may be affected, the repercussions are severe and long lasting.

Such is the tragedy of an inept system

Take care.

HLiza said...

Hopefully everybody will be safe. I didn't really follow the news..I know it will happen again and the same things will be said over and over again. It's all a deja vu.

Oldstock said...

Pat, Masterwordsmith and Hliza,

I read in the papers today that the this tragedy was discussed in parliament yesterday after YB Azmin Ali filed an emergency motion.

Let's hope our leaders really, actually do something about it.

Chahya said...

Thank God you and family are safe!

History is a vicious cycle. Until lessons are learnt and changes are made quick, it's going to happen again.

razifembi said...

nasib baik oldstock tak apa2...

ooo mai penang wat senyap ja noooo...

habaq mai pun tak ...

hanitha said...

salam bro, ya betul tu... malaysia mudah luper.. mereka hanya memikirkn keuntungan semata2... tanpa memikirkn risikonya... aper yg berlaku adalah takdir ALLAH n jugak sbg pengajaran n peringatan kpd kite semua agar jgn luper aje..
lunch break ni nk g tmpt kejadian n lps tu nk ke BIG APPLE. Kite nk amik gambo..lps tu tunjuk kat bro ek??

VersedAnggerik said...

I say, give it another 6 months and all those hillside development will start again, this tragic incident will be put on the back burner and everyone will just go on with their lives as if it didn't happen.

Then, come another tragedy like this to jolt us awake, and the whole circle starts again!

Ingat skejap.... lupa lama!

Oldstock said...

Chahya and Verse,

If you skim through other blogs that's touching on this incident, they are saying almost the same thing. We never learn.

Oldstock said...

Razif,

Saya pi Penang satu hari je... takda masa nak jumpa mana-mana member pun.

Lain kali kalau pi Penang lama sikit saya akan habaq. Boleh kita pekena laksa ka... mee udang ka...

Oldstock said...

Hanitha,

Big Apple donuts ada opening promotion. Dapatkan voucher, beli enam donut dapat enam lagi free. Sedap wo... tapi takleh selalu la, heheheh.