Fears justified with negative impact of prior land reclamation projects in Penang

Green groups are right to be worried about new land reclamation projects on the southern part of Penang island due to bad experiences with previous ones on the north side, even as the Penang government seeks to assuage residents’ fears.

For instance, the Seri Tanjung Pinang 1 (STP1) project on the coast of Tanjung Tokong had caused sedimentation along the Gurney Drive shore and affected fishermen’s daily catch, said Malaysian Nature Society Penang chapter adviser Datuk Dr Leong Yueh Kwong.

The effects of STP1 on the environment occurred even though its preliminary environmental impact assessment (EIA) report stated that the project would have no such impact.

Now, people are concerned about the second phase of the project, STP2, which is an already approved 760-acre man-made island project in front of Gurney Drive.

“The size of STP2 is some 85% of the size of Pulau Jerejak. There is concern that the project will change the shoreline, cause erosion and sedimentation, and impact fisheries.

"Fishermen have also been complaining that their catch decreased after STP1.

“There are many causes of that but it could have been partly due to the disturbance of the coastline too," he said, referring to the completed 240-acre STP1 reclamation.

A 2007 study by the Drainage and Irrigation Department also attributed the sedimentation and mudflats to the reclamation.

Their concerns follow the current state government’s proposal to create man-made islands off the island’s southern coast to finance the RM27-billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).

"Island A" of the proposed land reclamation project in the south is for the future expansion of the free industrial zone and the runway of the Penang International Airport. "Island B" will be used for housing and a state administrative centre.

Leong, who is an ecologist, urged the state government to ensure better monitoring of such developments.

"Our position is not against development, including land reclamation, because we recognise the need for development in many areas.

“We want development too, but it must be based on a coherent plan that governs density, traffic management and the necessary infrastructure.

"What we are concerned about is the lack of a definite plan, control measures and public debate, as well as the impact of new projects. For instance, there are more high rise projects than the corresponding infrastructure projects," he said.

In the case of STP2, there is still little monitoring by the relevant authorities.

"The detailed environmental impact assessment (DEIA) for STP2 was approved in a matter of weeks after it was submitted, which was quite fast. Many were unhappy about it.

"The DEIA did not address many issues, and was criticised by groups like the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP), Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) and Penang Forum, which studied the assessment."

Civil group Penang Forum and concerned individuals, in a March 2014 review of the STP2 DEIA, had questioned the rationale of the project.

They also questioned the report’s findings on environmental impact such as sedimentation, erosion and how it affects the coast’s wildlife.

The civil group also raised questions of its social impact on the fishing communities and traffic, and also highlighted the need for an environmental management plan that included a monitoring programme involving various agencies. - The Malaysian Insider

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