Sunday, December 14, 2008

They Learn Nothing. That's what in Malaysiakini

I refer to the Malaysiakini report "99 hillslope projects approved by Khir Toyo, says S'gor MB".

The former chief minister of Selangor, whose terms of office were plagued by several controversies, is in the news again. I was not at all surprised to read that 99 hillslope projects were approved during his tenure.

Least one forgets , approving tracks of land for housing projects, whether hillslope areas or green areas, is a sure way of making money for the developers and the powers that be. The status of forest reserves or agricultural land can be changed by the stroke of a pen by those in power.

More report on Corrupted Barisan Nasional HERE.

Big housing developers can earn a lot of money if they know how to grease the palms of top officials to approve their housing projects in hilly areas or forest reserves. Needless to say, this will cause huge ecological losses in the long run.

It is a win-win situation for housing developers and their influential political friends to approve housing projects in hilly areas as the affluent buyers of such prestigious projects rarely think about the long-term effects of such developments. Most only think about the ‘view’.

Selangor is bereft of land for development but our local authorities, after being influenced by their political masters, have no choice but to approve requests by developers with the right connections. Hilly land and even mountains have been flattened by greedy developers.

When you mess around with Mother Nature, landslides, floods and heat waves are to be expected. Such disasters not only endanger lives but leave a trail of destruction and death in their wake.

During the previous chief minister of Selangor’s time in office, flooding in Shah Alam was the norm and the forest reserve of Bukit Charaka was converted into several housing projects. Vegetation , trees and greenery were chopped down in the name of development and many once green areas were turned into concrete jungles.

One would expect local authorities to be strict in approving housing developments after the Highland Towers disaster nearly 15 years ago, where 48 people perished. However, people tend to forget easily.

The latest disaster in a nearby area where four people were killed and fourteen bungalows buried under tonnes of earth, was an accident just waiting to happen, especially in the current rainy season.

The Federal Court in a landmark judgment has given immunity to local councils against any court action if mishaps occur on hosing projects approved by the local authorities. This decision emboldened those in power to close one eye in approving housing projects in hilly areas as they would not be held responsible for any disasters.

As usual when calamities occur, fingers will be pointed at different people and house buyers in the affected areas will be hard pressed to go on with their lives as nobody will take responsibility for approving such dangerous projects in the first place. Looks like life is cheap in this country.

Khir Toyo who is running for office as Umno Youth chief needs to explain why he approved hillslope developments during his time in office without thinking about the dangers of landslides.

Presently there are several housing projects in hilly areas in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, where residents have staged demonstrations demanding that such projects are stopped immediately. However, as usual, protests fall on deaf ears.

Our country has adequate laws to deal with law breakers but enforcement is lacking, especially against the rich and influential.

Mark my words, after a few months when the latest incident in Ampang become history, people will once again forget about such disasters and hillslope developments will go on as usual, without regard for the safety of residents staying in nearby areas .

I don't believe our leaders when they say hillslope development projects will be stopped. As long as money can be made in the construction of affluent houses in hilly areas, expect more natural disasters to occur in the future.

The powerful individuals who approve such projects have blood on their hands but don't expect them to be brought to justice as loopholes in our system have allowed many to get away with even murder.

Makes you want to weep for those who not only lost their homes, but loved ones in the latest tragedy. When will we ever learn not to mess up with nature?

--By Hamdan Ibrahim

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