Tuesday, December 16, 2008

How to Fight Hillside Development

Penang state government can not afford a disaster like Highland Tower. Once it happen, Lim Guan Eng will face the risk of being booted out from the CM office. Stop work orders or abandoned projects are not the answer to complaints against hillside development. It will be detrimental to the nearby residents in the long run as the unmanaged sites pose serious environment problems.
Campaign against hillside development can be kicked by demanding the state government to implement best management practices to reduce negative environmental impacts.

The goal of best management practices (BMPs) is to conduct all construction activities in a
manner that effectively mitigates accelerated soil erosion, sediment movement and sediment
deposition offsite and also manages construction materials and wastes to prevent or minimize
their potential runoff from the site. The BMPs selected shall meet all of the following standards: (The standards are copied from The City of Elko Construction Site Runoff Control Program )

1. Schedule construction activities to minimize the total amount of soil exposed at any given
time. Preserve native vegetation to the maximum extent practicable and conduct clearing and
grading only in areas necessary for building activities and equipment traffic.

2. Establish temporary or permanent stabilization practices on areas that have been disturbed as
soon as practicable and no later than 14 days after construction activity in that portion of the
site has temporarily or permanently ceased.

3. Protect slopes susceptible to erosion by tracking up and down slope and installing controls
such as terraces, benches, retaining walls, temporary slope drains, fiber rolls, rolled erosion
control products, and vegetation.

4. Design and construct all temporary and permanent facilities that convey water around or
through disturbed areas with slopes and control measures that limit the flow of water to non-
erosive velocities.

5. Protect waterways within and bordering the site by creating vegetative buffers and installing
temporary stream crossings. Protect natural drainages, storm drain channels and storm drain
inlets in the vicinity of construction sites from disturbance, sedimentation and deposition of
polluting materials such as construction site wastes.

6. Retain sediment caused by accelerated soil erosion from surface water before it leaves the
site by installing sediment traps and/or perimeter controls such as temporary diversion dikes,
fiber rolls, or silt fences. From May through October, water shall not be allowed to pond
behind erosion or sediment controls for more than seven days.

7. Remove sediment accumulated in BMPs within seven days after a runoff event, prior to the
next forecasted rain event, or when BMP design capacity has been reduced by 50 percent or
more, whichever occurs first.

8. Implement BMPs at construction site entrances and exits to control and minimize sediment
deposition on paved roadways.

9. Do not store soil, aggregates, compost, construction materials or wastes on paved roadways.

10.Properly store construction site materials and manage wastes to prevent or minimize contact
with storm water and transport offsite. Construction site materials include, but are not
limited to, petroleum products, paints, adhesives, and solvents. Construction site wastes
include, but are not limited to, concrete washout, used paint supplies, sanitary waste, excess
construction materials, empty storage containers, and litter.

11. Properly manage vehicle and equipment fueling, maintenance, storage and parking areas to
prevent and control leaks and spills. Properly manage the cleaning of vehicles and equipment to prevent the discharge of wash water and pollutants to the storm drain system,
natural drainages or watercourses.

12. Establish permanent stabilization on all bare soils with perennial vegetative cover and/or
equivalent permanent stabilization measures upon completion of all site soil disturbing
activities. Areas stabilized with vegetative cover must have a minimum density equivalent to
70 percent of the native background vegetative cover.

We should make the following demands from the state government:

1. The public display of topographic surveys, soils reports, hydrology reports and geotechnical analyses of affected hillside development.

2. The public display of critical areas identified at on-site areas which are subject to severe erosion, off-site areas which are especially vulnerable to damage from erosion and/or sedimentation, and areas of environmental concern must be identified and receive special attention.

3. The state government should also provide the following informations regarding a construction site:

a) Limit Time of Exposure - All land disturbing activity must be planned and conducted to limit exposure to the shortest feasible time.

b) Limit Exposed Areas - All land disturbing activity is to be planned and conducted to minimize the size of the area to be exposed at any one time.

c) Control Surface Water - Surface water runoff originating upgrade of exposed areas must be controlled to reduce erosion and sediment loss during the period of exposure.

d) Control Sedimentation - All land disturbing activity must be planned and conducted so as to prevent off-site sedimentation damage.

e) How Storm Water Runoff is being manage - When the increase in the velocity of storm water runoff resulting from a land disturbing activity is sufficient to cause accelerated erosion of the receiving watercourse, plans must include measures to control the velocity to the point of discharge so as to minimize accelerated erosion of the site and increased sedimentation of the stream.

We should also call for regulations addressing all factors that have a direct impact on the quality of development at hill slope: regulating tree protection, limits on disturbance and impervious surfaces, building height and density.

Only when we make those demands will the state government realise how ill-prepared it is in handling hillside developments. It is nothing wrong to be business friendly, but it is wrong when the state government is dictated by developers without knowing what to do.

If the state government unable to meet those demands and yet insist to carry out hillside development, then we can conclude that the CM is being irresponsible.

Current hillside developments approved by the previous government should meet those demands as well, Lim Guan Eng should take the responsibility to make sure developers meet those standards aimed at protecting the public health, safety and welfare, as well as protecting and preserving natural and biological resources for the long-term benefit of the people.

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