Here it comes. A groundswell of protest is building up against the extravagant plan for an RM8bn 19.5km six-lane highway, which will mar the beauty and tranquility of the Sungai Ara Linear Park and the Penang Youth Park and affect hundreds of homes and businesses on the island.
These are ordinary visitors to the Sungai Ara Linear Park, from all ethnic groups, who are protesting. In the ‘new Malaysia’, these citizens, newly empowered, are not shy about speaking out and taking a clear stand for what they believe in.
Word has got around and residents groups, not only around the two parks, but across the state are starting to campaign hard against the mega highway. These Penangites want the project scrapped and the funds used for better public transport. They also want the SRS shopping list for mega transport infrastructure to be reviewed by renowned independent global experts in sustainable mobility. They are sure that the highway won’t solve the congestion problems in the state.
The campaign, from what I hear, has only just begun, and my hunch is that it could get bigger than the anti-Penang Global City Centre campaign in 2007 and the Save Penang Hill campaign around 1990.
The Penang Youth Park is a treasured landmark in Penang, and the Sungai Ara Linear Park itself is one of the best parks in the state, its river so clear that fish can be seen swimming in the water. It even won an award for the cleanest river in the country. The residents are rightfully proud of the park. Together with the City Council, they worked hard to transform the park from abandoned land to a lovely oasis in the midst of a concrete jungle.
But now with this mega highway plan, the consortium even wants to straighten the river banks and put heavy pillars along them! I tell you, some of our planners can’t bear to see such open green spaces and oases left untouched. They have to put their concrete monstrosities over it.
Still, when women and men get involved together in large numbers, they are not likely to let up so easily in their campaign. Stay tuned.