George Town residents living beside hillside highway project demand strict monitoring for safety’s sake
GEORGE TOWN, March 24 — As soon as the clock strikes 8.30am, residents living next to an ongoing highway project are rudely awakened by the incessant sound of machinery that leaves a fine layer of dust on everything within their homes.
The loud hacking and plumes of dust, especially on windy days, continue until 7pm from Monday to Saturday.
If the noise and air pollution were not enough, the previously verdant hillside barely 50m from their high-rise buildings is now bare, except for the numerous large boulders perched precariously on its slope.
The only slope protection to be seen are the large tarpaulin sheets covering parts of the now-bare slope, but not the exposed boulders.
Jay Series Condominium residents’ association chairman Lam Tak Keong said they were not against the project or the highway development.
Jay Series residents committee chairman Lam Tak Keong (centre) holds a joint press conference with Parti Rakyat Malaysia leaders Rosni Rashid (left) and Ravinder Singh (2nd right). The highway project is in the background.
“We are not protesting the project. We are only worried about our safety because the project is less than 100m from our homes,” he said today during a joint press conference with Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) leaders at the apartment along Jalan Gangsa.
He said the residents are worried about landslides in the event of a downpour, as the boulders and cleared slope are right next to their apartment blocks.
This is on top of the daily noise and dust that they have to put up with until project completion, which is expected to be in 2025.
He said the residents only want the authorities to conduct strict site monitoring to prevent any untoward incidences from occurring.
Kingfisher Series Condominium committee member Richard Lim said a few years ago, several cars parked near the slope behind their apartment blocks were crushed by boulders dislodged during the rainy season.
Richard Lim indicates the highway project on the slope that is right next to the Kingfisher Series condominium.
“That was before there were any projects and the hills were green and covered by vegetation,” he said.
He said there were countless boulders along the hill, so now that it is bare without the natural protection of trees and vegetation, he did not want to imagine what might happen during the rainy season.
Lam said they tried to reach out to the state government and their state assemblyman, but their concerns fell on deaf ears.
“We are at our wits’ end so when PRM offered to help, we agreed to give them the authority to investigate the safety precautions undertaken for this project and to investigate whether the project developer is following strict regulations to ensure our safety,” he said.
PRM committee member Rosni Rashid, who was a former building inspector of the city council, said she found it suspicious that the project, which began in February, appeared to have been fast-tracked.
She said there must be a setback between the project and the existing housing, which in this case was inadequate.
“We will investigate on behalf of the residents and find out all the details and safety precautions, if any, of the project,” she said.
She added that the highway project affected 17 high-rise buildings in total, which in turn translates to tens of thousands of residents.
“We want the authorities to make sure they monitor the site closely, especially if there is continuous heavy rain for two days,” she said.
Penang PRM vice-chairman Ravinder Singh called on the Department of Environment (DoE) to inspect the ongoing work and to ensure the contractor is complying with all safety regulations.
“The DoE, as the agency responsible for environmental matters, must explain to the public about cutting hill slopes, for roads or any other purposes, which are so close to residential premises below,” he said.
The highway in question is the RM851 million Package Two highway that cuts through Bukit Hijau to Lebuhraya Thean Teik in Air Itam, and then onto Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway.
The 6km highway will consist of a mix of elevated sections, tunnels and at-grade sections with three interchanges: Interchange One at Lebuhraya Thean Teik, Interchange Two at Jalan Bukit Gambir-Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah and Interchange Three at Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway with a left in-left out junction and an elevated U-turn.
State Infrastructure and Transport Committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari had assured residents that the necessary safety measures were being taken.
He also said the boulders were being broken down so that they no longer pose a risk.
“There is also a buffer zone between the project’s boundary line (reserve of work) and the residential area,” he said.
He said temporary drainage and a retention pond were also in place to ensure that the construction site is safe.
Package Two is one of the packages under the RM6.3 billion three major roads and undersea tunnel (PMRT) project.
The construction started in February 2021 and is expected to be completed in 2025.
Zairil said members of the public can contact the contractor during office hours at 04-8244575 if they have any questions about the project.