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A college and a luxury home project were given approval much closer to quarry site, near where 11 people were buried alive in a landslide.

GEORGE TOWN: The Department of Environment (DoE) did not object to two other projects much closer to the quarry near where 11 people were buried alive in a landslide in Tanjung Bungah.

Penang Island City Council (MBPP) Mayor Maimunah Mohd Sharif said these were a three-storey terrace house project and the Tunku Abdul Rahman College (TARC) branch campus.

She said the DoE gave support to the TARC project on May 22, 2008.

“These two sites are less than 350m from the quarry. The worksite accident location was more than 350m away,” she told reporters at Komtar today.

The natural resources and environment ministry, which oversees DoE, had claimed yesterday that it had “rejected” the condo housing project, where the landslide occurred, as it was too close to a granite quarry.

In the 8.50am incident on Saturday, 14 workers at the construction site were buried in the landslide at the adjoining hill slope.

The number of victims was subsequently revised to 11, with three others escaping with minor injuries.

Maimunah clarified that DoE’s nod or objection was not the sole factor in deciding whether a development project should be permitted, as in the case of the Tanjung Bungah project.

She said 24 technical agencies, including the DoE, would look through the application and MBPP would hear the concerns of all parties concerned before giving the green light to the project.

She said in the case of the condo project, despite DoE’s objection, the Mineral and Geoscience Department had given its okay to the project on Dec 30, 2014.

JMG regulates quarries and deals with hill slope stability-related matters, Maimunah said.

At the same press conference, state executive councillor Chow Kon Yeow said any project located 350m away from a quarry can be approved under existing guidelines.

He clarified the fatal worksite accident took place 500m away from the quarry and its blasting site.

Mayor Maimunah later revealed more details of the project.

She said approval was given for the 49-storey affordable housing building by the council’s One-Stop Centre (OSC) on Feb 18, 2015. The OSC is the decision-making body for planning permissions in MBPP.

A building plan was submitted in April 2015 and was approved the following month. Permission to commence work was given on Jan 18, 2016.

The area was zoned for housing as part of the council’s Development Planning and Policy Plan 1996.

“The site is categorised as Category II with average slopes below 20 degrees. The height of the site is lower than 250ft,” Maimunah said.

She said the development project complied with the Safety Guidelines for Hill Site Development 2012 which was supported by the Minerals and Geoscience Department.

“If federal standards are to be followed, the development can be classified as a Class II slope with a gradient of 15-25 degrees.”

Maimunah said all these details will be forwarded to the soon-to-be-formed state commission of inquiry.

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