Friday, September 5, 2008

Protesters Want KL Hillside Bungalow Project Halted

Source : The Business Times, September 5, 2008

Residents in suburb hand over papers to anti-graft agency alleging corruption

RESIDENT activism in a middle class suburb of Kuala Lumpur could force a RM400 million (S$167 million) development of 21 bungalows on a nearby hillside to come to a grinding halt, illustrating a rare combativeness among Malaysians in the wake of the March 8 general election.

On Wednesday, nearly 20 residents from Medan Damansara, a leafy, upper middle-class suburb of retired government servants and younger professionals, descended on the Putrajaya offices of the Anti-Corruption Agency to hand over papers alleging corruption on the part of City Hall when it allowed the developer permission to build on the slope. The ACA has promised to get back in three weeks.

The resident's assertiveness has redefined the way hillside development is carried out in the capital and has put Kuala Lumpur's powerful City Hall under siege from relentless media attacks and on the defensive.

Moreover, government lawmakers, who would have normally defended City Hall as a rule, are seemingly sympathetic to the residents in a bid to win popularity. The area, normally pro-government, swung heavily to the opposition in the March elections partly as a result of the unpopular development.

Meanwhile, the protests have put the developer - listed Selangor Dredging - in a bind. It paid RM58 million for the land and claims to have spent over RM30 million since in infrastructure work. The company, which even advertised the homes in Singapore, denies any wrongdoing, arguing that hillside development is common in places like Hong Kong.

The residents beg to differ, pointing out that the Cabinet of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad banned development of any hillside with a gradient of over 30 degrees. The Medan Damansara slope is well over 39 degrees.

Development of the slope began in December last year but the residents continued protesting with their efforts intensifying after the general elections. In June, City Hall slammed the developer with a stop- work order after it determined that several by-laws had been contravened.

Since then, trees have fallen in the area followed by a massive landslide last week that nearly demolished two houses in the middle of the night.

'Only then did everyone, including the mayor, come out to see the place,' said Randhir Singh, one of the neighbourhood's most vocal critics. 'All of us snubbed him. Where was he when we needed him?'

The resident's tactics have been effective. Following the stop-work order, they wrote to the 17 government agencies whose permission is required in any urban development, asking about the Medan Damansara development.

Five agencies replied, some revealing that certain approvals hadn't been obtained for the development. These were the documents lodged with the ACA.

Even so, the residents aren't completely hopeful that they will win out in the end. 'Whatever the outcome, I think we have demonstrated one thing,' said Mr Singh. 'I don't think City Hall will ever take Kuala Lumpur residents for granted again.'

1 comment:

Richard Yeo said...

Report on KL bungalow project: some clarifications

Source : The Business Times, September 11, 2008


WE write with reference to the article 'Protesters want KL hillside bungalow project halted' (BT, Sept 5).

We wish to place on record that as a company listed on Bursa Malaysia since the 1960s with our core business in property development and a recent foray into the property sector in Singapore, it would be incumbent for us to defend our reputation and standing in the interest of our shareholders and investors. We would like to state that Selangor Dredging Berhad (SDB) has obtained all necessary approvals and complied with all requirements set by the regulators.

1. Your article said the development is valued at RM400 million. That's incorrect. The development has an estimated value of RM250 million.

2. Your article said SDB had spent over RM30 million on infrastructure work. In fact, an estimated total sum of RM34 million will be invested by the company on infrastructure works of the project. The amount spent to date has not exceeded RM10 million.

3. Your article said the company paid RM58 million for the project land and even advertised the homes in Singapore. SDB paid approximately RM50 million for the project land and has not at any time advertised the homes either in Malaysia or Singapore.

4. Your article said that the Cabinet of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad banned development of any hillside with a gradient of over 30 degrees and the Medan Damansara slope is well over 39 degrees. There is no total ban on hillside development in the Federal Territories, Kuala Lumpur with gradient of over 30 degrees. In any event, only about 15 per cent of the project land is on slope of more than 35 degrees. For this area, the development concept will be based on columns which is in line with the 'Guidelines of High-Land/ Hill Slope Development' of 2005 by the Malaysian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

5. Your article reported that a massive landslide nearly demolished two houses in the middle of the night. The incident was a landslip and not a landslide. The landslip damaged a perimeter brick wall and affected the compound of one house and not two houses as reported.

Our consultant's findings indicate the most likely cause of the landslip was due to water being trapped at the bottom of the perimeter brick wall which eventually gave way. An earlier slope stability study conducted by our consultant shows the affected area to have a Factor of Safety (FOS) value below the acceptable level of 1.4. An FOS value lower than 1.0 means landslips are likely to occur. A copy of the report had been provided to the relevant authorities. No earthworks have been carried out to the affected area following the stop work order which was imposed since April 2008.

Whilst the company is not in a position to prevent any complaints by the residents, we reiterate that all relevant approvals have been duly obtained. The company continues to stand by its commitment to ensure that all works in the project will be carried out in a proper manner, in full compliance with all conditions imposed by the relevant authorities and with the residents' safety in mind.

Lina Othman
Communications and corporate affairs manager
Selangor Dredging Berhad