We applaud the call by Penang Chief Minister and DAP Secretary-General Lim Guan Eng that the federal government should come out with geotechnical engineering unit similar to that of the Hong Kong Geotechnical Engineering Office to ensure the safety of hillside developments.
The Hong Kong government had established a very effective yet powerful Geotechnical Engineering Office after the landslides in the 1970s killed hundreds of people, to monitor the developments of hillside housing there.
According to Guan Eng, the existing hillside developments require constant maintenance, monitoring and management in every aspect. Therefore, a very special department or office is required to have such matters deal with in a professional manner.
Guan Eng also explained that the Hong Kong Geotechnical Engineering Office had proved successful in preventing further deaths and incidents via four simple and effective moves i.e. checking on new slopes, planning land usage, maintaining and upgrading slopes and ensuring both private and government land owners adhere to the same guidelines.
While Penang already had a special committee working on outlining new guidelines for slope safety and conducting inspections on developments, the body needed to be placed under federal supervision as the source required are quite substantial and we don’t think any state will have enough resources to expand their roles.
Therefore, the federal government ought to look into this matter seriously and come out with a nationwide action plan to enforce some effective guidelines to prevent further deaths in the near future.