By A. Jeyaraj
Residents, NGOs and political parties objected to three hill slope projects proposed in Ipoh Local Plan 2020 at a public hearing sessions to voice their objection to Ipoh City Council’s proposed amendments on land usage involving a total of 151.18 hectares of land in three areas on the Kledang Saiong Range. The land will be converted to agricultural, housing and commercial purposes.
Meor Razak Meor Abdul Rahman, Sahabat Alam Malaysia Field Officer, was the spokesman for the group and said that amending land usage of permanent forest reserve into a mixed development will have an adverse effect.
One of the three proposed areas for mixed development is located on the slope of the Kledang Saiong Range, along the Ipoh-Lumut highway, and is very sensitive.
Any activity on the slope could result in mud and flash floods and endanger the residents nearby as well as the highway users. The water flows into Sungai Pari which would be flooded and affect people staying along the river.
Meor added that the areas proposed for the amendment are located near the habitat of the Siamang monkey, an arboreal black-furred gibbon native to the place and is fully protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 and development will affect the monkeys. There are various species of butterflies, crickets and other wildlife living in the forest which will vanish if the project takes off.
During January 2019, about 10 hectares of forest in Kledang Hill along Lumut highway was cleared and Mentri Besar (MB) Dato’ Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu said that it was illegal clearing and perpetrators will be punished and later in the year he informed that the hill will be replanted. Now he says that the place will be developed for commercial purposes.
Sultan of Perak, Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah had declared the Kinta Valley as National Geopark geology site. Therefore, all natural areas should be protected and not destroyed.
- Mohanarani, Parti Sosialis Malaysia central committee member, who was at the hearing session enquired why some of the land under the Kledang Saiong permanent forest reserve has private ownership. “This is very strange and wrong. How can some individuals actually own the land in the permanent forest reserve?” she asked. “We urge the state government to take back the permanent forest reserve land which has been given to the private sector.”
Residents from Kg DBI had earlier objected to the building of apartments in their kampong. The Ipoh Plan stated that the place is empty land, which is not true. Families have been living here for many years. Previously, the residents were told that their houses would be built for them at a subsidised cost. What happened to that proposal?
I think the hearing is only a formality and nothing will be changed in the plan.
Low Guo Nan, Perak MCA, Complaints Bureau Chief complained that conditions set by Ipoh City Council calling for a public hearing on the Ipoh Local Plan 2020 as being unfriendly to the public. The invitation letters sent out by the council were handed a few days before the start of the two-day hearings held on February 17 and 18. Many did not receive the invitation letters.
The letters should be sent at least two weeks prior to the hearings to give people time to apply for leave since the hearings were held on working days.
Low said that the council had also imposed conditions that those with objections must read the Planning Act Policy and mention the chapter and paragraph before raising an objection. This will definitely scare people, as not everyone is well versed with the Act and will probably not attend the hearing.
The hearing should be held in a transparent manner, and all interested, including the media, should be invited.
Paul Yong Choo Kiong, Chairman for the Perak Housing, Local Government, Public Transport, Non-Islamic Affairs and New Villages Committee, chaired the meeting. Residents who attended were unhappy because only a few people were allowed to speak. They said Paul was not able to answer a number of questions and was not competent.
Paul Yong said that a decision will be made on the objections during the state planning committee meeting, which will be chaired by the MB and held on March 12.
Paul Yong is acting as a postman and will tell the MB what he thinks is relevant. For the hearing to be meaningful, the MB and members of the state planning committee should have been there and a decision could be made. People who conduct hearings must have authority to make decisions.
Little time and publicity were given for people to respond. The signboard in Meru was put at the end of a dead road which had few houses. It should have been placed at the entrance to Meru Valley. The signboard for Taman Chepor Sentosa was along the approach road, not easily seen. It should have been placed at the surau. I was told that the board in Buntong had fallen down. The closing date was Monday, January 27, a public holiday. This shows the commitment of the government.
One has to ask, who are the beneficiaries of these projects?