Monday, 7 October 2013

Residents of Bukit Antarabangsa against slope levy

Residents of Bukit Antarabangsa are seeing red over the Selangor government’s nod to impose a levy on those wishing to build or develop anything near a slope that is in need of maintenance.

It is learnt that all landowners in Bukit Antarabangsa will be affected by the move, as well as those living close to the slope, which has been divided into two lots, 541 and 6873.

The levy also applies to developers of new projects close to risky slopes in areas under the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council’s (MPAJ) jurisdiction.

Sources said details of the levy were still being discussed at the state level.

This comes together with the state’s approval for a loan of RM16.5mil to MPAJ, with an interest rate of 4%, to maintain and stabilise the two lots.

The slope is next to the 15-year-old Taman Bukit Utama residential area and above the sites of the Highland Towers and Taman Hillview tragedies.

Ungku Farid Ungku Abd Rahman, 59, who is a survivor of the 2008 landslide in the area that took five lives and destroyed the houses of 14 families, said the move came at a bad time.

He is one of the few landowners who have plans to rebuild their homes at the site of the tragedy but have yet to submit plans for approval.

“This is like an afterthought after the landslide. Why is it only being implemented now? All the works carried out at the slope after the incident has made me feel safe enough to want to live there again,” he said.

Another victim of the same landslide, Datuk K. Thanarajah, 45, said the purpose of the levy needs to be stated clearly.

“If it is going to be used to set up a special unit of experts to monitor and maintain slopes or for slope works, then I am all for it,” Thanarajah said.

He also said the move should be transparent, with proper mechanisms in place.

“If this levy is merely to discourage future development and construction in the area then it is not right,” he said, adding that he has already submitted the plans for the new house he plans to build to the council.

A resident from Taman Bukit Utama, Dr Mohamed Rafick Khan Abdul Rahman, whose area is directly adjacent to the slope, described the move as unfair to individual landowners.

“While we are not objecting to imposing a levy on property development by companies seeking to make profits, imposing this on individuals who just want to build their homes is unfair,” he said.

He also pointed out that as the land was owned by the state, it should maintain it instead of taxing the residents.

“The loan may also lead to higher assessment rates for us.

“If the government wants to do something like this, it should also state its efforts in maintaining and ensuring the safety of this slope,” he said.

He said the funds from the government should be in the form of a grant that it could afford, considering its claims of having a reserve, an excess of RM2.62bil in funds.

“The amount of the loan is not justified, unless there is something very wrong with the slope. I have climbed the slope and found nothing wrong with it except for the drains that need maintenance as well as the trees near the top that need to be removed,” he said.

Dr Mohamed Rafick said the policy was discriminatory and that the decision should also apply to other parts of the state where there were slopes.

Also, in reply to a concerned resident via email, Tourism, Consumer Affairs and Environment committee chairman Elizabeth Wong said charging interest on government loans was applicable to all councils.

“This is regardless of whether it is a loan for slope works or rubbish collection and is aimed at encourage fiscal discipline and responsibility.”


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