Malaysia: Environmental based NGOs strongly against reclamation project off the southwestern coast of Penang

MOHAMED BASYIR New Straits Times 28 Aug 17;

GEORGE TOWN: Environmental-based non-governmental organisations (NGO) are adamant that the proposed Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project should not be implemented in the state.

They claimed the reclamation project would indeed have negative effect on the environment, and also affect the livelihood of the fishing communities near the project site.

As such, they lauded Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's assurance that the project would not be approved if it was not environmentally friendly and if it had negative impact on the people.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) said it was never in favour of the proposed 1,821ha reclamation project near Permatang Damar Laut.

Its president S.M. Mohamed Idris stressed that the project would indeed have negative effect on the environment and also the fishing communities near the project site.

Referring to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report, Idris said it concurred that there would be an impact on the ocean food chain and the fishing industry due to total loss of mudflats.

"Loss of coastal habitat due to this proposed reclamation project is a major environmental blow," he told the New Straits Times today.

His statement came in the wake of Najib's announcement on the matter during a visit to Balik Pulau on Saturday.

Najib had also said that the reclamation project should be environmentally friendly and other alternatives which could save the people's money should be considered first.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Nature Society Penang branch advisor D. Kanda Kumar, who echoed the same sentiment, stressed that there was no need for the reclamation to fund the state government's highly-ambitious multi-billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).

Kanda said that the Penang government should look into cheaper alternatives for the proposed railway system for the PTMP.

He said that many developed countries were moving to on-ground railway systems as it was cheaper in terms of construction and maintenance, hence the state government should follow suit as well.

"The state government had proposed for an elevated railway, for a major part of the rail system. This itself is expensive as they need to build special terminals.

"In comparison, they should go with on-ground railway system. Russia, for example, is implementing this too. Easily accessible for the people and also as fast as the elevated ones," he told the NST when contacted.

Kanda stressed that the requirements laid-out by Najib were not a straight 'no' to the reclamation as the state government could go ahead with the project if it fulfilled the requirements.

The RM46 billion PTMP project was proposed to reduce traffic congestion. It included light rail transit (LRT), mass rapid transit (MRT) and several highways.

The overall project would take 50 years to be completeed.

Kanda said that the PTMP could be irrelevant at that time, considering the current advancement of transportation technologies.

"We are seeing automated cars...there might be far better transport system by the time the whole PTMP is implemented," he said.

Penang’s reclamation project still awaiting federal nod
R. SEKARAN The Star 28 Aug 17;

GEORGE TOWN: Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng is questioning why Penang’s reclamation project has not been given the go-ahead yet while approval has been given to other states for their projects.

“Johor, Melaka and Kedah with bigger reclamation projects compared to Penang already have their approval from the Federal Government.”

Expressing his disappointment over Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s statement that he would not support the reclamation plans off the south of Penang island if the local fishermen’s livelihood was affected, Lim said the remark was a political one and not based on sound technical and environmental judgment.

On Saturday, Najib said the project was like putting sand into the rice bowl of the 1,500 fishermen here and if that was the case, the project should not be carried out.

Lim said Penang gave out the most compensation in Malaysia to fishermen affected by reclamation.

“The reclamation will not affect the fishermen greatly.

“They will still have access to sea through the proposed man-made islands,” he told reporters after opening the Japanese Technology Weekend at Tech Dome, Komtar yesterday.

The Penang South Reclamation Scheme is a massive plan to reclaim three islands totalling 1,800ha off the southern coast of Penang.

The success of the Penang Transport Masterplan, which is the state government’s multi-billion ringgit public transport project involving light rail transit, monorail, cable cars and water taxis, depends on funding from property development on the islands.

The environmental impact assessment of SRS was recently completed and is now awaiting federal approval.