Malaysia: Eroding coast threatens Penang highway

Today Online 2 Jun 16;

BUTTERWORTH — Strong waves in the north Penang channel have caused serious soil erosion to the coastline along the Butterworth Outer Ring Road (BORR) near the Bagan Ajam toll plaza.

As the eroded stretch of about 300m is only about 2m from BORR, the problem is endangering motorists using the coastal highway built on reclaimed land about 10 years ago.

Factory technician Osman Abu Bakar, 43, who ply the route regularly, hoped the authorities would take immediate steps to prevent further soil erosion.

“I see the seriousness of the erosion. It is unsafe. I fear it poses grave danger to motorists,” he said.

Mr Idris Abu Bakar, 51, from Tasek Gelugor, said he could see the erosion each time he crossed the toll plaza.

“What I see is worrying. The authorities must prevent the highway from being damaged,” he said.

BORR concessionaire Lingkaran Luar Butterworth (Penang) general manager Adnan Ariffin said the company was taking steps to resolve the problem.

He said they had anticipated the problem as the highway involved heavy construction on a reclaimed coastal area.

“We are concerned about the safety of highway users and our men are monitoring the stretch daily, especially during strong waves,” Mr Adnan said.

“It has to be resolved holistically. We have written to the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) and we are in discussion with it.

“It is not only the concessionaire’s problem just because we constructed the highway. It is also DID’s problem and we want their cooperation in resolving the problem,” he said.

He said erosion could have been avoided if a wave breaker, which was built near a row of seafood restaurants two years ago, was built nearer to the affected area.

“Constructing any sea structure is expensive. We are discussing the matter with our consultants,” Mr Adnan said.

State health, welfare, caring society and environment committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said the erosion was caused by strong waves during the northeast and southwest monsoons.

He said the waves affected the coastal highway, from a point north of the Bagan Ajam toll plaza until a seafood restaurant along the coast.

“The government should build wave breakers to weaken the impact of the strong waves hitting the coast,” Phee, who is also Sungai Puyu assemblyman, said.

He said the breakers would also benefit fishermen as they would also attract fish.

The Malaysian Fisheries Development Authority has data which can be used to build the wave breakers and Phee said the federal government should pursue the matter without further delay.

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Penang adviser D Kanda Kumar said it was important to conduct a proper study before reclaiming land along coastlines to prevent any negative effects in the future.

“A study on tide, wave and sea currents should be conducted before any reclamation works. Such works can impact other areas along the coast.

“If the reclamation was done without proper studies, the current pattern could also affect areas in Kedah and Perak. A holistic study involving the coastline on the island and the mainland should have been done before reclaiming the land to build the highway,” Mr Kanda Kumar said.

“The authorities should have built concrete barriers to avoid soil erosion along the coastline.”

He said the destruction of mangrove forests along coastal areas was a major cause of erosion.

A state DID spokesman said the department was aware of the problem and had alerted Putrajaya about it.

He acknowledged the damage was worsening.

“Our officers in Putrajaya will talk to the state secretary and highway operator on the matter. Eventually, the highway operator would be asked to build concrete or metal barriers to prevent further damage to the coastline,” the spokesman said. MALAY MAIL ONLINE

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