GEORGE TOWN, Oct 26 – The area around Tanjung Bungah has been identified as one of the high risk locations for landslides for the past five years, said a landslide and disaster management expert. Prof Dr Habibah Lateh said based on a mapping of hazardous landslides developed by the university in a study conducted jointly by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) and the Higher Education Ministry, it was revealed the rock composition in Tanjung Bungah was largely made of granite rocks that are in the process of erosion.
She said the eroded granite rocks were inclined towards the occurrence of landslides as the soil was not cohesive, leading to the instability of slopes. “In some parts of the area in Tanjung Bungah, its granite rocks have experienced a high degree of erosion and turned into silty sand that can easily cause landslides,’ she said when contacted by Bernama here today.
Habibah, a senior lecturer at USM Distance Learning Centre, said generally the slope materials in Penang are quite different from other places in Malaysia as they are composed of silt rocks mixed with boulders. “High temperatures and heavy rains can cause physical and chemical erosion to occur at a high rate that is at risk of slope collapse, especially at areas with mostly granite rocks,” she said.
She did not rule out the possibility that the quarry project near the landslide location at the site of an affordable housing construction project that claimed 11 lives, was one of the factors that could have contributed to the disaster. “This is because blasting activities at the start of the quarry project can rock and indirectly loosen rocks and soil at the place, however the blasting is usually done in a way that minimises tremors in the surrounding areas,” she said.
According to Habibah, based on its recent research on residents staying near hill slopes, it was found that most of them were aware of the dangers and high risks involved but only took a ‘wait and see’ attitude. “They would rather give priority to the luxury factor and beautiful scenery, having bought a house in the area but for me, we need to focus on saving lives as money and property can be sought,” she said.
As such, she noted plans were ongoing between USM and the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) to create and enhance public awareness on landslides, especially in Penang and other places in the country that is at high risk of landslides occurring.
She said cooperation between government agencies and universities was important in disaster management and creating awareness among the residents on landslides and other natural disasters in order to save lives and properties. At the same time, developers should not only be interested in reaping profits without considering the safety and lives of their house buyers, she added. — Bernama