Is Penang really greener?

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Dr Lim Mah Hui discusses the recent controversy over whether Penang is really greener these days – or otherwise:

Has Penang become greener? The antagonists in this last week’s controversy involve not only the usual players – the Pakatan-led state government in Penang, on the one hand, and Barisan National parties on the other.

The controversy was sparked by Dr Tan Seng Giaw, a high-ranking member of the DAP. He posted on his Facebook that the coastline of Penang has changed drastically and the green hills looked thinner. The comment was eagerly publicised by the MCA.

As to be expected, the chief minister of Penang took a pot shot at both the MCA and Tan, accusing the latter for being incommunicado since the beginning of the year. Tan retorted that a reporter could contact him easily, so “What is his problem?”

When interviewed, Tanjung Bungah Adun Teh Yee Cheu qualified that the preservation of forest reserves is not the issue, but rather the significant clearing of hill greenery outside the forest reserves.

Another DAP bigwig, Tony Pua, has since waded into the debate. Having seen a 360 bird’s eye view of the island from Penang Hill, he asserted categorically that Penang is now greener; not an inch of hill forest has been touched.

Who do you believe? Who is right? Is this a case of myopia, or an illusionist’s trick to mislead the eye to the one sizeable pristine spot on the island?

I assume that Pua walked round the Tree Top Walk in Habitat to get his 360-degree view. But does he realise that one cannot see the whole island from that vantage point?

READ MORE:  Bukit Kukus: Timeline of degradation

Dr Kam Suan Pheng, a GIS specialist, produced a map (see below) that shows that all black areas are outside the visibility of someone standing on the Tree Top Walk. Only the coloured areas can be seen; and this does not include clearings like Botak Hill, which lies south of the blue coloured area.

It is surprising that someone like Pua could make such a sweeping statement, that Penang is greener. Is it a case of the blind man describing the entire elephant by just feeling its tail?

Perhaps the MP for Petaling Jaya Utara should look out of his plane or car window the next time he comes to Penang. The exposed hills are plain to see.

After four years, the disaster of the infamous Botak Hill has not been mitigated. A wide road has already been constructed to the top of Botak Hill, and one wonders if high-end residential buildings will be popping up next. Directly across the bridge, two hillocks have been blighted by quarrying.

Pua should also drive around and speak to the disaffected residents in Sungai Ara, Paya Terubong, Tanjong Bungah, Balik Pulau and others on the mainland, or visit the Penang Hills Watch (PHW) website.

As Teh pointed out, the Penang state government has not interfered in the state forest reserves. But this alone does not make Penang greener and more ecologically sustainable.

First, unlike other states with large areas of forest reserves many times the size of Penang island, Penang’s gazetted forest reserves are tiny – only 5,101 hectares or only 4.9 per cent of Penang state. Most of this is on hill land – defined as being more than 250 feet above sea level or land on slopes of more than 25 degrees.

READ MORE:  Save our hills declaration at Penang Forum

Secondly, the forest reserves on the island exist mainly to protect the water catchment, so the giving of logging licences is out of the question.

Thirdly, steps taken by the state government to curb illegal clearing by farmers have been timid and unsatisfactory.

Fourthly, more and more forested hill lands are now being legally cleared for housing projects and roads.

Fifthly, despite repeated calls for the authorities to prosecute aggressively in cases of illegal hill clearing, only paltry fines instead of jail sentences have been meted out as punishment. This sends a wrong message to potential offenders.

The PHW has reported citizens’ sightings of illegal clearing in one of the island’s gazetted forest reserves and a few other locations just metres away from gazetted reserves. Well documented through drone photographs, Google Map and reports from nature lovers and hikers, the devastation of many hill slopes in Penang has been linked to worsening soil erosion and recent floods.

What has been done? The state government set up a special committee to look into illegal hill-clearing last year, soon after the problem was highlighted by the press.

PHW has presented reports and met twice with officials from the state and local government, who seem to appreciate PHW’s efforts. But apparently the chief minister has not kept himself well-briefed of the situation and the public has not been apprised about any follow up.

As for hill developments with legal approvals, the Sungai Ara’s residents case against a proposed massive housing project by Sunway in the Sungai Ara hills is an important one to watch. Sunway proposed to build over 600 highrise apartments, even though 43 per cent of their land exceeds a 25-degree gradient and qualifies as sensitive hill land.

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This land was registered as hill land under the Land Conservation Act 1960. Having bought this land in 2010, Sunway applied in 2011 for the land to be excised from hill land status. This was approved by the State Planning Committee (SPC) in December 2011 upon payment of RM1m by the developer.

The gazetted Penang Structure Plan explicitly forbade development on sensitive hill land unless it is a “special project” approved by the state government. How a housing project could have been approved by MBPP under the rubric of “special project” is the subject of contention in this legal case.

Taking an objective view, one has to conclude that while the Penang state government has largely protected its very limited gazetted forest reserves, its policies have exposed the hills and shores of Penang to rapacious development. This has led to a sad and serious decline in environmental sustainability, notwithstanding all the state’s nice slogananising about a cleaner and greener Penang.

Dr Lim Mah Hui is a former city councillor with the Penang Island City Council

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69 COMMENTS

  1. Reseachers in Sweden Lund University in the journal Environmental Research Letters, have identified the top four things people can do to reduce their carbon footprint: eating a plant-based diet, avoiding air travel, living car free, and having fewer children.

    Living car-free saves about 2.4 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year, while eating a plant-based diet saves 0.8 tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year.

    Avoiding airplane travel saves about 1.6 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per trip.

    By far the biggest action was having one fewer child saves an average of 58.6 tonnes of CO2-equivalent emission reductions per year.

    A US family who choose to have one fewer child would provide the same level of emissions reductions as 684 teenagers who choose to adopt comprehensive recycling for the rest of their lives.

    https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/7288/

    • Methane emissions from the burps and farts of livestock (cattles like cows) accounts for around 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Eat less red meat like beef and you can help to slow down global warming.

  2. The Penang government is intensifying its food composting initiatives and food awareness campaigns to reduce food wastage.

    State Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said the state government had installed bio-regen food waste machines in several locations to convert such waste into bio-liquid soil enhancers.

    “We are running a food composting pilot programme involving food stalls at Chow-rasta Market, where food waste from the market is sent for composting.

    “We collected 3,000kg of waste in 15 days from 28 business operators at Chowrasta Market and Jalan Macalister.”

  3. Visited Singapore last month.
    Penang can emulate the tree planting effort of Singapore to become a garden city.

  4. Interesting thing that was pointed out by Dr LMH is that the developer paid Rm1 million. So is this is way the Penang government is financing itself to cover its profligate spending? According to AG report, Penang’s spending has risen by 500% since DAP took over.

    • kelvin, you are real good in figures. please tell us how many foreigners have become citizens and PRs? Now many professionals call Down under home? Now much has ringgit down in valve and down into longkang? how many are guest and illegal? tq
      penang spending has to increase as one dato stated here that council fails to maintain the trees. You analyse one side~ spending but you did not look into complains?? 4wd complains has orso 500 percent too plus kalvin. so state has to increase spending.

      • Calvin
        Suresh can be chinese or Indian.His mentality same as Ramasamy to pick up a issue with Indians without helping Indians.His job to protect temple’s and small petty issue about Indians welfare.

        rajraman.In the first place why he never question Anil who keep posting negative (might) remarks about DAP. Should Anil become a STAR paper writer.So Anil bloq is irrelevant?The readers of Anil blog irrelevant too.
        No check and balance but when try to be check and balance commenter is inrelevant as Anil blog.
        Are you try to destroy the Deity rule of power Mr.Anil?Are you bought by UMNO or their macai?
        All the donation to your blog need to be “oudited” including your hidden personal account.
        FIre stone question or Batu Api as Malays say.

  5. Is the pasture still greener in Malaysia for local medical graduates (of all qualifications)?

    Bahasa exemption for contract doctors: Subra to brief cabinet
    http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/07/04/bahasa-exemption-for-contract-doctors-subra-to-brief-cabinet/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+FreeMalaysiaToday+%28FMT+News%29

    When the phobia of losing our national language in the march towards the 21st century of global progress can create blockage of practicality, sensibility & meritocracy, we should ask ourselves are we doing a disservice to our nation’s competitiveness & people. We live not on language alone which we cannot chew all day long.
    Bread + butter is more important (to survive) even if not for a spoken word.

    • Doctors: Patients don’t see us for our SPM-level BM cert
      https://sg.news.yahoo.com/doctors-patients-don-t-see-us-spm-level-230300993.html

      “When you see a doctor, you want someone who is not going to cause you any harm, and will be able to help you with the problem you have,” said Dr Helmy Haja Mydin, a consultant respiratory physician at a private hospital here.
      “By the time someone graduates from medical school, one hopes that the graduates are safe, know how to ask for help, have the capacity to think critically, is able to learn and adapt, and of course communicate effectively.”
      “These are criteria that should be given more importance rather than the results of an exam that was taken before medical school,” the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs associate added.

      My Observation: Currently, the doctor-to-patient ratio in Malaysia is reported to be at 1:600, compared to Putrajaya’s target of 1:400 by 2020.
      NOW do we want a better medical service (for all Malaysians) or do we still want to … (make) the country suffers & going backward further than Timbuktu?

    • you raise it. we are waiting for you. still busy with Doj and bnm’ s revelation? With Swiss land checking this means Swiss land is no longer neutral.

      • What Swiss land? We are talking about “Penang Official 1” aka “Thick-Skinned Cheap Minister of Penang” who bought a bungalow that is cheaper than most Penangites in term of price per square feet . It’s good that DAP is getting a taste of its own medicine, lol.

      • Then Penangites will continued to be screwed by the DAP . And UMNO together with Sarawak and Sabah parties will continue to rule Malaysia for another 50 years regardless of whether you and other Penangites support BN or not, get it? Penang will continued to be marginalized, get it?

      • Suresh, I’ll say it again- BN will, for SURE, still the ruling government of Malaysia after GE14, GE15, GE16, dan seterusnya. If you’re not happy, what are you going to do? I can wager with you if you want but I’m afraid you’re going to lose your shirts, lol! On the other hand, PO1 (Penang Official 1) and Dr M will bring downfall to Pakatan (Tarak) Harapan, get it?

    • Amanah strategic director Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said:

      “A Dr Mahathir-Anwar team, along with the entire leadership of PH and its machinery, is the force that will ultimately unleash the wave of the people’s uprising against a kleptocratic government that is greedy and has lost its way,”

      “Could this finally be the time and moment that Malaysians have been waiting for, where the ‘postponed agenda’ of (Dr Mahathir) endorsing his protégé Anwar finally come true?”

      • Don’t be so naive la. Don’t just quote what Dr Dzulkefly wrote. His opinion has no bearing on the coming election outcome since he himself actually lost his ADUN seat in Selangor back in GE13.

        In addition Amanah is just a DAP running … that no sensible Malays will support it. Dr M is going to answer the forex scandal very soon. Anwar is still in jail and will be an old man after his release.

        Bottom line, no hope for Pakatan Harapan. DAP together with Pakatan needs to be crushed, stomped to the ground and totally annihilated in the next GE. They deserved it. If you don’t like BN or Malaysia, you know what to do – just vote with your feet and leave, get it?

  6. I agree that more and more land were used for development, hence less and less trees and greenery. But is Penang now “greener”? The cleaner street and the ban of plastic bags as well as rubbish separation at source must be included into the debate. Many modern mega city lags green lungs but the way their city works is much much “greener” compare to KL or Bangkok even though they have fewer trees..

    • Reduce your carbon footprint for a greener environment.

      A meat lover has the highest carbon footprint at 3.3 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. A vegan diet has the lowest carbon footprint at just 1.5 tons CO2e (Carbon Dioxide Equivalent). You can reduce your foodprint by a quarter just by cutting down on red meats such as beef and lamb.

    • Blame it to expanding uncontrollable car population on island.

      You like to drive big cars so the trees are the sacrifice for wider roads to meet your bin chui requirement

      • Drive big cars like Merc S300Lansi, an excuse to cut down trees?
        Is that a good leadership by example???

      • Jerome,

        Two wrongs don’t make a right. This is the problem with the blind devotees of the Tokong. They can justify anything that he does pointing out that it still not as bad as what is being done by the other side. This is exactly the attitude that will embolden PH leaders to take the same corrupted and undemocratic route.

      • The same attitude of blue saga seed. Saying wrong without any basis. Only buying kancil is right? Better if toking rides boon siew kapcai and best if tokong buys a bicycle for his official duties? Saga seed thinks Mercs is too extravagant? His paymaster can have secret agents and protective car but tokong only kelefa and kancil? Many leaders and rich men are buy BWMs because it comes with any protective features.
        On the other hand who is having expenses paid holiday? Lucky you have one too.

      • Jerome, if you think it is not an issue, wait till you see more bigger ones to come.
        We vote not to be selectively blind, not to forgive a small devil & punish a big Lucifer.
        We see not blur of some political idols, focus with sharp damnation of political nemeses.
        For the day will come when the idolised small devil will grow into a big Lucifer.

        John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton/Quotes:
        Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
        History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.
        The issue which has swept down the centuries and which will have to be fought sooner or later is the people versus the banks.
        The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern.
        Learn as much by writing as by reading.
        Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end.
        Every thing secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity.
        The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities.
        Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right to do what we ought.
        And remember, where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that.

    • Another gold finger. Ordinary bloke like you can drive 4wd with monkeybar. Of course you want tokong to go in a smaller than 4wd.Best tokong rides in a kancil? Happy?

      • Come on, be realistic. How can you expect LGE to drive to airport with Camry to pick up Ho Chin of Temasek (wife of Spore PM). No bigger car how to attract big FDI (investments) ?

      • Puspha, one ‘good’ publicity stunt @ Economy Class (air flight) doesn’t have to morph into Bin-chui Merc S300Lansi. This is no principled 308.
        I won’t trust such a leader who claims thriftiness & sincerity of character.

        Did Gandhi ride a Rolls Royce to receive the British political elites???

        Sunday, 4 May 2008 | MYT 12:00 AM
        Travellers impressed to see Lim flying economy class
        Read more at http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2008/05/04/travellers-impressed-to-see-lim-flying-economy-class/#vo1oSK6YRfqldfHa.99Lim, who has adopted a “no formalities” approach since assuming the CM’s post, said he said he had told his staff to book him economy class tickets whenever he needed to fly.

        “I hope to lead by example. If I can reach my destination and save some money at the same time, why not?” he asked.
        That is not all. The Chief Minister also does not check into luxury-class rooms in hotels.
        “I usually request for a room that is at least one level down from what I am accorded,” Lim said.
        Jolly, who flew in First Class with Ning on that flight to Penang, said Lim had earned their deepest respects.

      • just side track. disease from mad dog called rabies have killed 2 in Sarawak as reported by star. luckily last incident in pg. there is no adverse case but people protest against the gomen for puting mad dogs to sleep. the prevalent of mad dog is still there.

  7. Attack Attack Attack on all front.
    The Penang Government is encouraging land reclaimation on the sea front as well as approval of encroachment on the hill slopes on the Island.

    All this hill land degradation are easily visible from every part of Penang, and the Govt should not deny this fact.

    It is incumbant upon the govt to spell out their sincerity and intention on the preservation of the hill land and green areas.

    The hot tropical climate here do not afford us the type of mass clearing of greens like Hong Kong.

    At the rate land clearing is being carried out in the name of development in Penang, we ll be experiencing major increase in temperature.

    • The recent increase in daytime temperature speaks volume of what is happening to our green lungs.
      The highest I have recorded of room temperature is 33°C, not a very comfortable Greener Penang as sold to us since that 308 euphoria.
      We may see more hot days ahead till end October.
      Penang CAT will definitely blame the Indon haze as the main culprit!
      Nyia-a-mak!

      • Yes, hot weather these days but you can visit the largest anime convention in Malaysia, Penang Anime Matsuri 2017 – Summer Wonderland (PAM17) this weekend at the Setia Spice Convention Centre. Free air-conditioning!

      • You did not study thermodyn? When turn on aircond, there is heat exchange.cooling the bedrooms hot air are blown out causing rise in temp, outside

  8. As to whether Penang island is greener or not cannot be settled by arguments by various parties without any real knowledge of the facts.
    However it can be objectively be determined by a scientific and objective study of the state of the hills. The technology now exist to do that.
    At the simplest level the remotely sensed data freely provided by Google maps would give an estimation of the changes in land use in the hills over time. Some time sequence Google maps would give an estimation of the changes that had occurred over time.
    A more accurate and precise estimate can be made by buying professional remote sensing data commercially available from remote sensing centres in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore or Bangkok. A study of these remote sensing data will demonstrate conclusively whether Penang is greener or not. This can be verified by “ground truthing”, a term used to verify remotely sensed data through ground checks as well as by photos of the areas taken by drones that in the past few years. Photos by nature lovers and hikers would also help verify the actual situation.
    There is enough expertise in Penang on remote sensing from various expert groups to do the analysis. Such a study should put an end to the sterile agruements of who is right and start to look for real solutions to the problems development in the ecologically sensitive areas.

  9. Only fools and hard core supporters would claim that Penang is greener now. Instead of answering questions on hills and forest clearing, as usual the Cheap Minister claimed that the forest reserves were not touched. It is so typical of the Dear Leader to evade the question posed and answer positively to something was never asked in the first place. I must congratulate our CM for his excellent propaganda skills but unfortunately fail him on his leadership skills.

    • This tactic of answering a question is an old one used by all sides. Usually, the reporters are too polite or fearful of the elite to push their questions or to report an evasion. A certain VIW (Very Important Wife) once told a newspaper not to send a particular reporter again as the latter was insufficiently obsequious.

      • I am still waiting for the weapons of “mass destruction” in Iraq that the “free” press reported. Putin regularly demolishes these idiots when they raise their pitiful, party-line questions. So did Chavez, Castro and others. The “free” press can only censor their comments.

        Can those watching this “free” press explain what happened in 2016 in Brazil? How did legislators and judges – some of whom were being investigated or already convicted for corruption – displace the president despite failing to prove any, personal corruption?

        Do they know that the Syrian “poison gas” propaganda version 2 has been exposed – again. Now, the propaganda predicts fake poison gas attack version 3.

        Today, when the alternative sources are widely and easily available, many choose ignorance, bigotry and obedience (including consumption) – amazing but true. This stupor seems to affect people far away from the imperial centres, even people of widely different cultures and experiences. Are they even aware of the major issues facing themselves, their society and the planet? Ignorance is bliss.

      • You miss the boat. You show no pity when Kurds in the north and those in the south were gased by Sadam. Hundreds or few thousands are not important? One Kurd said that he bought a plane ticket to down under and upon arrival, he lodge his claim as a refugee and was accepted.
        Intelligence may not always be right. The allies has very few casualties. Some movies show after all the hard training, the allied soldiers did not fire a single as the Iraqis did not fight back as what intelligence protest. Even many pommies were strafed by uncle Sam air force.

  10. It is definitely not greener. In fact the nice tall trees by the roadside in Tanjung Bungah and Batu Ferringhi are not maintained at all too. You can see that parasite or symbiosis or whatever you call it plants are taking over the original trees and growing, eventually destroying the original trees.

    • only maintain tg bungah and ferringhi? maintenance no need money? where to get money? Malacca can get 10m for a ship. pg not a cendol but sis kosong. if raise money by selling land to raise money penang will be better than dink land. if no money to maintain the trees then you say of is like kelantan. please make up mind whether to live like kelantan or not?

  11. Plant more grass and potted plants in your neighborhood to substitute those lost through hill clearing.
    Submit your photos to Anilnetto.com to kick start greening effort by the people not have to be driven by Cats or run by Dogs.

  12. Only the “sane” hardcore DAP supporters sees the greens is more greener then “unsane ”
    Google Map,Drone and Citizen watch group all unsane people’s.The Chief Minister job to sell more land to raised $$$.

    rajraman.The Sane Political Traders in DAP will sell their saliva for the sake of $$$ and Politicals Survivals.Who question them is unsane like who question BN (may) be charge under Sosma.Who question 1MDB also unsane.
    Politician tounque more sleepery than car lubricant.

    • Dr Tan also provide answer on 1mdb in the parliament public account. Public account has no further action.

  13. Cleaner Greener Penang? MY FOOT!
    This is the greatest green bluff of selling since the minute Captain Francis Light set foot on the pristine beach (without any destructive cat’s paws) of Pulo Pinang, an island so loved for its charm that the British made it its East India foreign island territory.
    Tony Pua, as suspected is too frightful to NOT toe the CAT’s Line. So his carefully chosen publicity stunt to choose the 360° CAT’s (not bird’s) eye view for a 360° appraisal of Absolute Vodka Geener Penang!
    But is he qualified, being not a Penangite to witness these horrendous hill destructions on daily basis?

    One thing is certain: he is qualified to claim to see the ‘money’ birds for the trees within sight of his 360° appraisal of Absolute Vodka Geener Penang! 2 birds is not enough for a typical CAT appetite.
    Next Tony Pua’s 360° publicity stunt could be “I $$$o Love Penang” from the top of Komtar Tower.

    • The same with British done to China. They humiliate China with gun boat policy and sell cheap leisure cakes opium to chinese. Official Lim send by Qing dynasty tried to stop but in vain. Not enough with Hong kong island, British also wanted Kowloon and new territories just like Penang island is too small for them. British wanted part of the hinterland which they called province Wellesley. Light blasted Penang with money and people clear the jungles to search for money. Fools and die hards bee end of today only close both eyes on British action but condemn tokong. Too bad, they study history from bee end. Of course, British also expand Penang with reclamation. The Beach street is no longer beach but expand to pengkalan weld. Again fools and die hards of bee end are quiet on this.

    • Same with Rakyat. They can say anything to suit their desires and comfort . They want to ride car. Car needs roads to run and to park. Cars for parents, son and daughter. How much space is required for each car? Kapcai and bicycle no style. Share bike? China is experiencing nightmares. People are dumping all over the place.
      Of like old days, squatter houses are better. They cramped together. The roads are lorongs, one way lanes for both way cars. So houses are well compact. Penang must be the only place in the world the green has turn brown and the rest of the world has turn brown to green.
      Of course our population is greater than 30 million. How about hidden figures by fed on legal and illegal migrants? They run in one or two countable numbers and not millions. Same with refugees. Countable one or two and Pg forum expect them to chain and they will not come out. Go and tell Chinese and Ang mo don’t come. If more chinese come more hills will be cleared to grown pruned durian trees. how come the Chinese can to fly to Penang just to taste durian? Why PG Lang do the same and fly to Beijing just to taste Beijing duck ? Beijing has more than 20 million ie 2/3 our population.

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