Monday, December 8, 2008

A Tragically Lazy Government

Hantu Laut

The tragedy at Bukit Antarabangsa is a reminder of the lack of will by the government to strictly enforce restrictions on unsafe hill slopes development.Money is still God in this country where safety to human lives takes a back seat.It is also a well-known fact that collusion and corruptions between developers and those in authority are as common as the rats found in the gutters of the city.

When tragedy struck those in government are quick to make promises of bullshit proportion.A year later when the tragedy evanescent it is back to square one, all promises are sent to the graves.

Worst, is the laziness on the part of the government to investigate and hold inquiry on such tragic incidents and bring to book those responsible.

On 15 March 1986 the six-storey Hotel New World in Singapore collapsed suddenly.The tragedy killed 33 and 17 were rescued over a seven-day rescue operation.The Singapore government investigated and held an inquiry.It was found poor design and shoddy workmanship were the cause of the mishap.In particular, the architects made an error in calculating the building's total load weight leaving out the "dead load" -- the building itself and only including the "live load" of the building contents and potential additions.The government all took further steps to inspect all buildings designed by the same architect.

On December 11 1993 one of the block of apartments at the Highland Towers collapsed like a pack of card killing 48 people.The government announced a ban on hillside development.Promises made, never fulfilled.Today the same tragedy occurred. What happened was not an act of God.It is by human design and greed.

An inquiry should be held to determine the cause of the tragedy and if there were elements of negligence the party concerned must be punished.Local authorities should not be given immunity against negligence suits.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Human greed is definitely one of the contributing factors.

There is also another aspect - the standards of Engineer involved.

Hillside developments will go on due to human 'wants'. The only way to prevent disasters is good design & monitoring.

Other countries have done that!

No sane human will willingly do evil, no matter how greedy one is!

So, if the governing authority looks only at money can those who r trained as a professionals (engineers/consultants) can asconded responsibility?

Where r their professional ethics? Or r they so badly trained that they know not what they r doing?

gwlnet

Malaysian Tigress said...

Hantu Laut,

Yes, I agree.Our government is just lazy and the people are just resigned. We must have some kind of people's watchdog or lobby group to keep pressuring the lawmakers, councils, etc until we see change. Nak harap depa je memang tak akan berlaku. I would gladly join such a group.

I read this piece in the SUN: (though I don't agree with the last bit about "unimpeded", I do agree with the need for such a body)

Most landslides can be prevented, says engineer

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 9, 2008): Most landslides are preventable and Malaysia already has the expertise to drastically reduce the frequency of such incidences, says Dr Nehemiah Lee, a geotechnical engineer and authority on reinforced soil techniques.

Geotechnical engineering is a branch of engineering specialising in assessing the stability and strength of soil and rock materials, as well as groundwater conditions.

Lee, previously with the Drainage and Irrigation Department and now the managing director of a company dealing with reinforced soil technology, said incidences of landslides were known to geotechnical engineers as slope stability problems.

“The question is whether we are willing to channel resources in terms of expert personnel and adequate funding to resolve the problem,” he told Bernama yesterday.

Referring to calls for a blanket ban on hillside development following the landslide at Bukit Antarabangsa, he said it might not be the most appropriate approach to solve the problem.

Lee, who has been invited to speak at many international conferences, said the continued growth in population and increasing scarcity of flat usable land would continue to exert tremendous pressure to develop hilly terrain, Bernama reports.

“Even if the total ban is implemented, the problems remain because there are existing slopes that are not stable. Moreover, slopes that are steeper than 35 degrees may be safe while slopes that are gentler may not be safe,” he said.

He said the stability of slopes depended on a host of other factors besides slope gradient.

They include rainfall intensity and duration in the locality, the type of soil, the geological formation, the effectiveness of drainage system and the type of vegetation growing on the slope.

“In addition, there is still a small element of uncertainty concerning the unknown and unquantifiable factors that are beyond the state of the art of geotechnical engineering professionals,” he said.

Lee proposed that the way forward would be the establishment of a special purpose body dedicated to slope safety management.

This body should be manned by experts in geotechnical engineering and complemented by engineering geologists, soil erosion experts, hydrologists, drainage experts, environmentalists, lawyers, policy makers and regulators.

Its role will be to regulate and audit the investigation, design, construction, monitoring and maintenance of man-made slopes, which include cut slopes, fill slopes and retaining walls.

Besides its regulatory role, the body should undertake research and education, including forensic investigation into landslides.

Its first task would be to work with private home owners’ associations and developers to carry out risk assessment of every existing slope that was a potential threat.

Any slope found to be unsafe should be strengthened to the required level of safety, and defects in the drainage system rectified.

For new hillside development, this body should scrutinise the design, construction and maintenance of man-made slopes to ensure compliance with the highest standard of engineering practice.

Above all, it should be vested with statutory powers to approve or reject any new hillside development so that no town council or municipality would issue a certificate of fitness unless prior approval was obtained from it.

Lee hoped incidences of landslide would be greatly reduced with the setting up of the body and that sustainable, environment-friendly development on hilly terrain could continue unimpeded.

Enough is enough...we must drive the change somehow...and that includes our road safety and crime situation.

SM said...

HL,

An inquiry? Lim Kit Siang is asking for a Royal Commission of Inquiry also. Looking at past RCIs (e.g. the Lingam Tapes RCI & the Police RCI), we KNOW nothing will be done.
As usual the DPM & PM come out "full-blast" telling us (they conveniently forget that their "Majlis2 Bandar" are the ones that are giving approvals for the development?) that we easily forget & there will be a ban on hill side development, blah, blah, blah.
Don't forget also the 10 people who lost their lives in the Express Bus tragedy a couple of days ago. Different scenerio but same "outcome" (loss of lives!). These Express Buses are bloody "Moving Coffins"! & you see them zoom on our Highways day after day & who's doing anything about it? The RTD? The Police (they are too busy catching "dangerous" criminals holding candles!)? The Government (ya right!)?
I DISAGREE with you! The Government is NOT lazy! The Government (UMNO) is too corrupted to care! The Government "servants" are too busy thinking of ways to fill thier pockets with tainted money!
As for Malaysians, what can we do? Nothing mush actually. We can have all the Inquiries or RCIs or whatever & nothing will change.
Maybe we will wake up & when the next GE comes along, we may do something about it or else we will just have to "endure" this crap or "leave" (as a lot of Malaysians are now doing on a daily basis)!

de minimis said...

HL

You are being very kind to say that laziness is the factor that leads to tragedies like Bukit Antarabangsa.

The truth may actually be that corruption breeds bureaucratic amnesia.

In fairness to those conscientious people working in the municipalities, their reports may have been "misplaced" or "lost" or filed under "no further action".