Penang Hillside Projects: Altitude is Irrelevant

Penang hillside geo-technical advisory panel chairman Prof Dr Gue See Sew has raised eyebrows with his opinion that altitude is irrelevant to the safety of hillslope projects.

Dr Gue however said he was speaking solely on the safety aspect of hillslope projects, during a briefing on safety guidelines for hillside development.
“I’m aware that the state imposed restrictions in terms of height above the sea level but what is important when approving these hillside projects is the slope gradients,” said Dr Gue.

For example, he said, there could be a flat land (zero gradient) high above the sea level that could be developed without extra safety measures compared to a hill site with a slope gradient of more than 30 degrees and located only 20m above sea level.

During the briefing held at Komtar yesterday, Dr Gue said there could be secured hillslope development as long as stringent rules were put in place.

Dr Gue, who is an Oxford-trained geo-technical engineer, was asked to give a briefing to local authorities as well as several non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

His statements on altitude being irrelevant to the overall safety of hillside developments drew inquiries from the attendees who were concerned about the environmental impacts of hillslope development taking place high above sea level.

“The guidelines are only applied by the local councils for planning permit applications and are not related to the state’s policy,” explained Dr Gue.

Meanwhile, state Local Government and Traffic Management Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow who was present at the briefing said the guidelines were prepared for clearer procedures on hillside development for all stakeholders from the developers to the local authorities.

When asked if the state’s policy would be reviewed as Penang is the only state that imposed a 76m above sea level limit for hillslope projects, Chow said there were no plans yet.

“We will definitely adopt the safety guidelines when approving hillside projects,” said Chow when met after the briefing. – The Star

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