Residents keep watch on slope conditions in Bukit Antarabangsa

By FAZLEENA AZIZ and CHOONG MEK ZHIN metro@thestar.com.my

THE big green patch of land nestled along Jalan Bukit Antarabangsa is a stark reminder of the tragedy that shook the nation on Dec 6, 2008. 

A total of RM70mil was spent to stabilise the landslide-hit area, which was completed by the Public Works Department.

Victims of the landslide are still haunted by the incident, which is still fresh on their minds.

Make it bigger: Water from the retaining wall is due to rain but MPAJ will upgrade the drain to channel water properly.

One such resident, who has become a household name in the neighbourhood since the tragedy is Dr Mohamed Rafick Khan Abdul Rahman.

“It is difficult to describe the feeling, you can also say that it has left a painful scar for many people,” he said.

Dr Rafick said after three years there has been some improvements made by the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ).

He added that MPAJ has been pushing developers and land owners to check on their land and maintain them well.

“But I feel there is no coordinated effort by the residents to check for signs of cracks and to see if the drains are in good condition.

“If another landslide occurs, you cannot totally blame it on the authorities. Residents should also shoulder the responsibility.

“They too must do systematic inspection but I feel the residents lack the knowledge,” said Dr Rafick, adding that the residents association was not as committed to the task as it was done on a voluntary basis.

A community programme, SlopeWatch, under the Coalition of Bukit Antarabangsa Residents Associations (Cobara) however, aims to educate residents on slope maintenance and how to spot signs of failure.

Its programme director Eriko Motoyama said with knowledge, residents would gain a sense of control and acquire a higher resilience to risk.

“Landslides can be mitigated. We can reduce how badly affected we are as well as shorten the recovery time,” she said.

Looking for cause: The driveway shows signs of water seepage.

Motoyama said landslides would not happen overnight and a cluster of tell-tale signs would usually appear beforehand.

“People should be more observant of their surroundings.

“Anyone who sees a sign of a landslide should report it to the local authorities and ensure there is follow-up,” she said, adding that people should not press the panic button when seeing the signs either.

She also said they had developed a system within the Bukit Antarabangsa community where complaints or reports on slope problems would be channeled to them either directly, through the local councillor or head of housing area.

Motoyama said so far, the programme has processed 70 reports on such signs within the two-and-a-half years of its formation and have even received requests to look at slope issues in other areas and states.

“We have established a close working relationship with the MPAJ which in turn enables quicker action and feedback,” she said, adding that they hope to formalise SlopeWatch into a non-governmental organisation soon.

She added that the theme for the third anniversay of the landslide this year would be more towards taking care of the environment.

SlopeWatch together with MPAJ went to inspect some of the places that had been identified with problems recently.

The inspection team, which was headed by MPAJ slope division head Zafrul Fazry Mohd Fauzi checked three homes in Jalan Kelab Ukay 3 in Ukay Perdana.

One of the houses had a pipe leakage, which was causing water to flow from underground while another had water coming out from a retaining wall.

After further inspection, Zafrul said they would contact Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Bhd (Syabas) to check the leakage.

Problematic: Residents suspect that the pipe behind the wall is leaking.

He said if left unattended, the leak could cause erosion underground.

“Water tend to carry soil and it is also a loss for Syabas because of wastage,” he said.

As for the water coming out from retaining wall, Zafrul said: “It is probably due to rain but it always a good sign otherwise it will soak in the soil, which is not good. A drain needs to be built to channel the water properly. So far there are no immediate signs of potential landslip as the wall looks strong and built well.”

He added that it would take about two weeks to do the drain as the council would have to check the land status.

According to the affected resident Zaini Nordin, the problem with the pipe was about two months old.

He said although his house was not directly affected, the condition was directly affecting his neighbour’s house.

“I had informed SlopeWatch and MPAJ, who had responded in less than a week to rectify the situation, so this is good,” he said.

Meanwhile, SlopeWatch member John How said they had carried out inspection after the reports were made to them.

He said it was important for the residents to come forward because nothing can be done if they keep quiet.

“The collaboration from MPAJ, Syabas and Public Works Department has been effective.

“However we need the people to help us monitor their own areas,” he said.

According to MPAJ president Datuk Mohammad Yacob, the council’s Disaster Control Room has been on standby for the past month.

“Whenever the rainy season approaches, we will have three teams on standby to handle any disasters such as landslides, soil erosion, flash floods and fallen trees,” he said.

So far, this year there has only been one landslip incident in Lembah Jaya.

There were also reports of fallen trees due to strong winds.

Article Source http://thestar.com.my/metro/story.asp?file=/2011/12/5/central/10030824&sec=central

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