Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Penang govt slammed for rezoning hill

The land on top of Bukit Relau that was cleared illegally has been rezoned for housing development by the state government last year

State govt should disclose details of cleared land, say NGOs

GEORGE TOWN: PENANG-based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have expressed shock over news that the land on Bukit Relau that was recently cleared illegally, had been rezoned by the DAP-led state government last year to allow development for housing.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) president S.M. Mohamed Idris said the group was against the state government's decision.

"Hills are important to Penang and they should be protected, not developed. This bald patch on Bukit Relau should be rehabilitated and left alone," he said yesterday.

An English daily reported yesterday that the land, which measures almost 23ha, was rezoned from hill land to low-density housing land last year.

The rezoning was approved by the State Planning Committee (SPC), which is chaired by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and consists of state executive committee members and Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) department heads.

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This had led to about 0.8ha of land at the top of the hill to be illegally cleared between February and March, leading to an outcry from NGOs here.

MPPP was subsequently forced to issue a stop-work order on April 24. However, no one has been charged with the destruction of the hilltop.

At the council meeting late last month, MPPP president Datuk Patahiyah Ismail told reporters the council had to investigate and get reports on the hill clearing before taking further action against the landowner.

However, the state government and MPPP have refused to confirm details on who owns the land, despite media reports linking it to a tycoon said to be close to the chief minister.

Professor Jimmy Lim, the founding member of the Citizens Awareness Chant Group (Chant) yesterday said the state government and MPPP should be more upfront about the issue of hill clearing.

He said the state government and Lim had been preaching transparency, but the way this matter was handled did not reflect that.

He also said specific questions on the hill clearing and its owner had been raised to MPPP by one of its councillors, Dr Lim Mah Hui at the council meeting.

"If a councillor, one of the MPPP's own, did not know what was going on, what transparency are they talking about?

"Earlier we were not given much information and now we hear that the land is earmarked for a housing project. This is not the way to go because many Penangites have seen the bald patch on the hill and are horrified."

Jimmy also said MPPP should review planning decisions and directives to developers that were negative to uphold its integrity.

"There should not be any loss of face. If anything, a reversal of ill-advised decisions shows strength in the administration," he said.

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