By Sharan Raj
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--There had been a series of landslides causing loss of life, homes and public infrastructure, the most recent being at Jalan Simpang Pulai-Blue Valley heading toward Cameron Highlands on the 18th September 2021.
The series of landslides arise from poor prevention works because of neo-liberal policies. In fact, Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) had raised the red flag on the future risk from slopes on the 17thJuly 2020.
According to Pelan Induk Cerun Negara (PICN 2009-2023) overdevelopment and construction near hill slopes increases risk of landslides. Putrajaya needs to curtail property development by developers near hill slopes.
Meanwhile, existing slopes need to undergo routine preventative works to protect lives, homes, and public infrastructures.
On the 2nd of February 2004, the Federal Executive Cabinet had approved the establishment of Cawangan Kejuruteraan Cerun (CKC) under JKR.
This was in direct response to the rockfall landslide at KM21.8 (Bukit Lanjan) on the North Klang Valley Expressway (NKVE) that occurred on 26th November 2003. CKC-JKR manages, controls, and supervises slopes to avoid future tragedies.
According to the Slope Management Guidelines (Part 3) dated August 2006, CKC-JKR must conduct routine slope maintenance at least once (1) per year for category 1 and 2 slopes and twice per year for category 3 slopes.
Between 2007 to 2012, the routine preventative maintenance was conducted properly. However, this was stopped from 2013 onwards due to deep budget cuts imposed by the Najib Razak administration.
According to CKC-JKR, there are 946 high risk slopes in Semenanjung with 20% of it located within 3 districts; Cameron Highlands, Kinta, and Gombak.
In 2018, CKC was supposed to conduct landslide prevention work on all 946 high risk slopes, but less than 6 percent of the slopes were completed. There was NO preventative work done in Pahang and one preventative work was completed in Selangor.
The failure to undertake landslide prevention works was due to outsourcing to an incapable company called Pintas Utama Sdn Bhd (301524-V).
The Ministry of Finance (MoF) has granted the concession to Pintas Utama Sdn Bhd (301524-V) through direct negotiation to undertake slope maintenance and repair worth nearly RM900 million for a period of 36 months from 1st November 2017.
The Auditor General’s Report Series 3 highlighted that the concession contractor does not have the sufficient capability to conduct slope prevention works as planned by CKC-JKR.
Putrajaya needs to stop the neoliberal policies such as privatisation of slope management and austerity cuts before more people die from landslides.
*Sharan Raj is the coordinator for the Environmental & Climate Crisis Bureau and the PSM Melaka State Secretary*