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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

REHDA urges govt to reconsider blanket ban

The Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (REHDA) yesterday urged the authorities to reconsider the proposal to impose immediate blanket ban of development projects following the recent Bukit Antarabangsa landslide tragedy.

REHDA president Datuk Ng Seing Liong said the tragedy was unfortunate but a blanket ban would not be the best solution to the problem.

According to REHDA, it is necessary for an urgent plan of action to be taken that addresses not only the immediate crisis, but also the longer term issues of sustainable development that includes the protection of hill slopes and the environment.

Ng said the authorities and the nation should be adopting sound measures to provide a more sustainable solution to hill slope management and development.
“One weakness related to hillside development is the lack of master planning and transparency in the land development and building process,” he said in a statement.

REHDA said it is particularly important that information on hill slope developments be made available to developers and landowners so that developments in such areas are not carried out without sufficient input on future upstream and downstream projects that may take place in the same area.

Such developments should not be approved and carried out on a discrete basis, Ng said.

“REHDA also proposed that a long-term solution is for a dedicated federal agency or commission to be set up that will have authority over hill slope development for the whole country,” he said.

Ng said such a body should be allocated with sufficient resources to undertake research on hillside development and slope safety, establish a register or inventory of all major hillslide lands with profiles on their topography, geological properties and stability.

“This agency should also be empowered to issue and enforce guildelines and standards, approve hillside development and monitor slopes, akin to the functions of the Hong Kong Geotechnical Engineering Office,” he said.

Ng said more stringent rules for maintenance of slopes and drains, and safe treatment and handling of abandoned projects should also be drawn up and imposed.

According to him, blanket banning and freezing of all hill slope development is not a sustainable long-term answer.

“A blanket ban affects many landowners and developers with a value writedown that will affect their balance sheet. This will mean a provision for contingent loss which will have a serious consequences for industry players,” he said.

A recent survey conducted by REHDA Selangor branch estimated that about 4,500 acres of hillside land valued at around RM1.4 billion are involved.

By Bernama

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