Sky Cab over seagrass

Change on the horizon: The planned cable car station is part of the future development of Jelutong landfill (foreground) and it will be along Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway near the landfill’s entrance (circled) next to a petrol station. This aerial photo was taken 175m above sea level with a drone camera.

A major realignment to the island-mainland cable car plan – Penang Sky Cab – could see passengers travelling 90m directly over Middle Bank.

This change will also see the cable car station built as part of the future development of Jelutong landfill.

A source revealed that the cables could stretch from Penang Sentral, where the ferry terminal is on the mainland, to the future development of Jelutong landfill.

It will cut across Middle Bank and be about 5km long instead of the previous 3.6km.

“At low tide and with a pair of binoculars, passengers might clearly see the large sea anemones and crabs that live on this 50ha carpet of green grass,” the source said.

He said an environmental impact assessment (EIA) would begin on the project soon.

The planned cable car station, the source said, will be by the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway near the entrance to the landfill.

Previously, the cable car station on the island side was to be at Nordin Street Ghaut, but he said consultants had calculated that the area’s roads might not cope with the potential swell of traffic.

The 21.44ha landfill is 21 years old and would be rehabilitated.

But while the tourism value of Penang Sky Cab could go up a notch with this plan, the source is worried about Middle Bank.

“The cable pylons are 50m apart and the towers are 500m from each other. Middle Bank is 1km from the island, so how close will the pylons be to the seagrass bed?”

He said although the structures would have a small footprint, the construction would still kick up tonnes of seabed sediment that could hurt the seagrass.

He said there was an optional plan to turn one of the towers into a restaurant and observatory.

“If they choose to build one for passengers to stop and look at Middle Bank at low tide, the construction might be major enough to affect the seagrass environment.”

When contacted, a senior state government official who declined to be identified confirmed that the plan was being studied.

“There shouldn’t be any pylons or towers built on or near the bed. This change is not to capitalise on the seagrass but to manage the traffic and wind channelling effects on the cable cars as they cross the sea,” the official said. - By The Star

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