Losing sleep over the risks

Safety measures: The retaining wall at Persiaran Endah was built after the slope experienced the worst landslide in the area in 2012.

Curling up in bed feeling snug has not been the case for residents of Robson Heights and Taman Seputeh in Kuala Lumpur since 2012.

The areas has been hit by many landslides since then.

On March 7, 2012 alone, the residents woke up to 18 landslides in the neighbourhood as it had rained five hours continuously.

The worst hit areas were Persiaran Endah and Jalan Robson where the debris covered more than half the road and blocked traffic.

Despite the series of landslides in the area, the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) still approved a commercial development in Jalan Robson in 2013, said Robson Heights Residents’ Association honorary secretary Lim Soh Wah.

Construction for this project just started last year.

Lim said residents were living in constant fear of further landslides due to this new development.

He said in 2010, DBKL had stated that the hillslopes in and around Robson Heights and Taman Seputeh were categorised as Class 3 and 4, which meant that it was more risky for development.

“But it (DBKL) approved this commercial development anyway.

“The site also experienced a landslide on March 12 this year at the construction site.

“We are extremely concerned that we have not been given due notification to object,” he said, adding that the residents did not object to the right of the owner to develop the land, but believed that development should conform to the existing projects as it was a unique area.

Traffic congestion

Lim was also informed that the site was previously gazetted for residential projects but the land use was changed to commercial about 20 years ago.

“Many things had changed in the last two decades.

Traffic mayhem: On top of the daily congestion, Persiaran Endah, Jalan Robson and Jalan Permai are sure to jam up everytime there is a celebration at Thean Hou temple.

“DBKL must reassess the conversion to see if the current surroundings would fit the approval given then and approve the development accordingly.

“Jalan Robson is a two-lane road that is often congested and cannot be widened, the adjacent slope has failed many times and the existing properties behind the site face imminent danger during the construction or excavation for such a massive project.

“Currently, another developer is also in negotiation with the RAs to build a luxury high density condominium. The residents have no issue with this project if it was to build bungalows,” he said.

Lim said Jalan Robson, Persiaran Endah and Jalan Permai were often congested and traffic would be backed up until Jalan Syed Putra.

“The situation gets worse every time there is a function at the Thean Hou temple nearby.

“Many vehicles are parked by the roadside and some would spill over to the residential area.

“Many use the alternative route through the narrow Jalan Permai to get to the temple and park haphazardly along the stretch making it difficult for the residents there.

“In case of medical emergency, the residents will not be able to get out of their house fast,” he said.

Another resident who declined to be named said a few years ago, a mother had to carry her child down Persiaran Endah and Jalan Robson to take a taxi to the hospital because the heavy traffic made it impossible to get out of the area fast.

“What if there was a fire, how would a fire engine come up here fast?” he asked.

Danger: Tattered tarpaulin sheets expose the bare soil near Robson Heights and is a disaster waiting to happen. Trees are also seen perched precariously on top of the slope.

Seputeh Residents’ Association Dr P. Balaeswaran said the residents were also against the proposed 920 units of PR1MA homes and 288-unit bachelor enclave in Brickfields.

“Although rule five does not apply to us, we are still very much affected because we will share the same roads like Jalan Tun Sambathan, Jalan Robson and Jalan Syed Putra.

“The increase in population density will generate massive increase in vehicular traffic,” he said

Hillslope development

According to the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government (KPKT) Kuala Lumpur hill and slope development planning guideline 2010, Class 3 and 4 slopes could be considered for development with the proper engineering solutions.

For Class 3, developments allowed include residential, office, hotel, chalets and training institution. However, Class 4 slopes were only for residential development.

DBKL Planning deputy director-general Datuk Mahadi Che Ngah said it also required the development to be low-rise and low-density.

“There is no specific number to allow flexibility, but we follow the present condition. There was a time when the maximum height of a low-rise building was only three levels but now even 10 levels is accepted because many buildings are reaching 50 to 70 levels high.

“Apart from this, we also have our own guidelines.

“We have increased the factor of safety to 1.5 for man-made slopes and 1.3 for natural slopes under Class 3 and 4, which means the developer has to build retaining wall, soil nail or any other solution to achieve this rate of safety.

“Even in places like Hong Kong, engineering solutions are used to manage steep slopes and developments on the slopes,” he said.

“On a national level, Class 3 and 4 slopes are to be untouched, but we cannot do the same in Kuala Lumpur because a lot of land will not be allowed to be developed. DBKL will lose a lot of money as the private sector will ask DBKL to acquire the land at the market rate.

Mahadi also said that it was risky to leave a hill idle.

“There may be stagnant water and landslides occurring. But if we allow it to be developed with the requirements, the hill will be strengthened.

“Many people do not understand this.

“Development is not an issue.

“What is important is how the developer takes precautions on the safety of the people as well as the one who will inhabit the building.

“The public Works Institute of Malaysia (Ikram) is there to ensure the standards are achieved.

Commenting on the commercial development along Jalan Robson, Mahadi said if the land transfer had been approved and all due payment had been paid, the land use stayed.

“The development order can be renewed up to three times before expiry, after which a new development order can be applied for.

“We are pro-development. As long as all safety regulations are adhered to and traffic is under control, the development will be approved,” he added. - By The Star