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Penang Hills Watch: Stream flows through illegal quarry into nearby bay

Google Earth images showing the condition of the site from 2002 to 2018

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Penang Hills Watch (PHW) refers to the Star article on 1 October 2019 which highlighted illegal granite quarry activities in Teluk Bahang.

It was reported that the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) has issued two stop-work orders in February and May but despite that, the quarrying activities have continued to this day.

On 31 March 2017, PHW submitted its second report on hill clearing activities to Chow Kon Yeow, the state executive council member for local government, traffic management and flood mitigation, with 12 cases of land-clearing activities on the island, based on citizens’ observations.

One of the 12 cases was the observed land-clearing activity (Report no. 36) at this very site that has now made the news about illegal quarrying activities.

PHW received a written response from the Engineering Department of MBPP (reference: JK(J)/PELB/93/13) dated 23 June 2017. From the specific response regarding this site, PHW understands that the land in question is a former quarry and that, following a stop work order issued on 13 May 2016, the MBPP was in the process of preparing the survey plan for taking legal action after consulting with the legal advisor. In addition, the land owner was required to appoint an engineer to carry out site rehabilitation.

It is therefore puzzling as to why quarrying activities have continued since then. Clarification is warranted from the relevant authorities on the following:

  • Was the stop-work order of May 2016 enforced and the responsible party prosecuted if there was non-compliance then?
  • What are the outcomes of the accompanying actions reported to have been taken according to the MBPP response in June 2017?
  • If this was a former quarry that had ceased operations since 2002 (as reported in the Star on 2 October 2019), then would the quarrying licence not have expired, and when?
  • If the former quarrying licence has expired, would there not be existing regulation(s) to effectively prosecute illegal quarrying activities that are being carried out for over three years now, since a stop-work order was issued as early as in May 2016 (see chart at the top)?
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The Star article on 2 October 2019 cited Phee Boon Poh as mentioning that heavy metals detected in a river close to the quarry gives additional cause for concern if indeed there is a link to the quarrying activities at the said site.

Observation made on Google Earth imagery (Figure 2 below) shows a stream flowing through the quarry site and discharging into the Teluk Bahang bay, barely 1km from the fish cages in the bay.

Stream flowing through the quarry site enters the Teluk Bahang bay

We urge the relevant authorities to carry out a thorough investigation and reveal the results naming the types of heavy metals, the source and concentration levels, and to take immediate action.

We also urge that stern action be taken to enforce the stop-work order and prevent further destruction of the hill slopes. Rehabilitation of the denuded slopes must be carried out as soon as possible.

The hills and the seas are Penang’s natural heritage and any effort to destroy or pollute them should not be tolerated. The environment and the health of people cannot be compromised.

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