Thursday, September 16, 2010

Will They Never Learn?

How many people need to be buried under their respective houses before anyone realises that building houses on hillslopes is a bad, bad idea?

Earlier this month, the star online ran an article mentioning that the court has ruled in favour of a housing development in Bukit Gasing, one of the few remaining natural places (a hill for hiking) where city folk get in touch with nature.

Actual article here:

I had actually highlighted this hillside issue on this blog before, and instead of repeating myself, I figured I'd just reproduce the post here.

Originally posted on December 8, 2008
"You'd think that people would learn good lessons from tragedies past and attempt to prevent them from recurring and causing pain and injury all over again. Based on what's going on though, that seems to be not the case at all.

About two days ago, a landslide happened near a commercial area near Damansara Heights, where the roads were closed and the buildings evacuated. And even before the shock of that incident had blown over, another landslide happened in the hillside residential area of Bukit Antarabangsa near Ulu Klang in the middle of the night, killing four, injuring several others and destroying houses in the process. So far, about 3000 to 4000 people have been asked to evacuate the area.

Back in 1993, a tower block of this place called Highland Towers, another hillside residential area around the same area of Ulu Klang collapsed leading to the deaths of 48 people, and the formation of SMART (Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team), because we never had the need for one before. A study was conducted in the area, and it was decided that the land structure had weakened due to water that had seeped into the land from a source that was previously blocked.

Even the government agreed then that hillsides may not be the best area to build houses and decided on a rule to reduce housing areas at hillsides unless the land is proven to be safe, but even till today, you see all sorts of development of housing estates at hillsides, and you wonder if they're actually safe. I'm not sure if the houses at Bukit Antarabangsa were built before or after the Highland Towers tragedy because there seems to be no information available, but if it was built after the tragedy, then it's a bad case of not using history as a guide.

There is no doubt that hillside houses have a great view, and are always cooler (temperature wise, not hipper) than houses on low lying areas. Nevertheless, heavy rainfall at these former water catchment areas seem to seep in and when it is too much to handle, the land gives way and slides causing all these massive damage. And we all know how damaging water can be if look closely at the effects of floods, tsunamis, or even the slow effects over time that water causes in caves.

Now there is a talk about about reintroducing extra safety measures into housing at hillsides, including a proposed masterplan (after all, there is always a demand for houses at hillsides) Only time can tell if this is the best solution."


  1. Sad isn't it? Developers would just try to build anywhere they can just to rake in a profit!

    I used to love Bukit Gasing, it was one of my favourite hangouts in my youth.

  2. Homes on hillsides are okay if the land is stable and there's adequate water drainage. There are plenty of hillside homes here in Northern Ireland. But as in this case, homes are often built on unsafe ground as a result of not checking site stability properly and of course the profit motive. It's a big problem in Italy too, where hillside homes are often engulfed by landslides and bribes are often a factor in planing permission.

  3. your post reminds me of a pri-bahasa that ppl enjoy laughing and talking about
    " bile mau berak baru gali lubang " - does this ring a bell ? :)

  4. I'm forever thankful to live in an area where there is little to no natural disasters. The worst that happens here is a wind storm and maybe a destructive hail storm. The most scared I've ever been was during that dust storm we had a year ago, that shit was crazy.

    The place that scares me the most is the fault line in the US state of California. They say there will eventually be an earthquake so massive it will seperate them from the mainland. They call it "The Big One". That is insane.

  5. I think the answer is no, they will never learn.

  6. Nick: It's still quite a hangout... the sister and I went there a few weeks ago. The hike was lovely!

    nick: I agree... but seeing that it has happened several times before, precaution should be taken. However, I mostly object to this because the area happens to be a place where the people go for exercise - and I've been there too, although only once. Once the hillside becomes a place of residence, will we be allowed to roam around on what's left undeveloped?

    Unicorn girl: No... not familiar with that peribahasa... but i get the picture :)

    Orhan: I wouldn't call this a natural disaster... it's a man-made disaster aided by nature that was mistreated, more like it. Thanks for the little trivia on the California fault line, though... I knew the place had it's risks, but never to this extent.

    SAW: And I think you're absolutely right... and the next time it happens, some people will probably mumble "i told you so", the effected people will sue the developer and the government, and the media will have annoying 'from the scene' updates every 5 minutes annoying the hell out of the rest of us!

  7. This sounds like the California strategy of home building. Expensive homes are always getting taken out by wildfires and mudslides. Fires more though.

  8. Ryan: It wouldn't...

    Ricardo: That's crazy...


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