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What’s holding up report on Batang Kali landslide, groups ask

PETALING JAYA: Environmentalists and activists want authorities to release the official report on the landslide in Batang Kali that killed 31 campers nearly two months ago without delay.

They also urged Putrajaya to reveal the measures that would be taken to prevent such disasters from happening again.

Ecotourism & Conservation Society of Malaysia president Andrew Sebastian said the delay in releasing the official report was typical of the government’s response during similar incidents in the past, when information and action plans were “slow” or “non-existent”.

He said no new laws had been proposed while bureaucrats continued to pay lip service to the need for better hillslope monitoring and enforcement.

Andrew said a public forum comprising independent experts could be held to come up with ideas if the authorities were at their wits’ end on what to do.

“For too long the preservation and protection of hillslopes, forests and water catchment areas have been put on the back burner.

“It’s time we hold our government to account instead of waiting for the next tragedy to happen,” he told FMT.

Academic and former MP Kua Kia Soong wanted answers over how a steep hillslope at the Batang Kali site was allowed to be cut and if any measures were taken to protect the area when a road was built there.

He questioned if there were elements of negligence or corruption.

“Recent corruption cases have revealed that some Malaysian politicians are in the pockets of powerful developers,” he said.

Kua also said there had been cases where environmental impact assessments (EIAs) had been compromised or developers avoided having to do EIAs by simply subdividing a project into smaller land parcels.

He said regulations governing hillslope development needed to be overhauled and there should be stringent EIA conditions.

Kua also called for a royal commission of inquiry into the Batang Kali incident in view of the number of fatalities.

Environmental activist Anthony Tan said the authorities should document the tragedy from the viewpoint of survivors, families of victims, rescuers, and the agencies involved in the rescue operations.

“A clear line of authority on which agency is responsible for monitoring the safety of campsites is needed,” he said.

Thirty-one campers, including 13 children, died in the landslide on Dec 16.

Preliminary findings by the works ministry showed that tension cracks that stretched along the road running above the hillslope and the accumulation of underground water beneath the campsite had likely caused the landslide.

Last month, the government said a full report on the incident was still in the works.

Natural resources, environment and climate change minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad said a preliminary report had already been read by the prime minister.

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