The six-lane highway will now go below the funicular railway (instead of over it), increasing the total length of all the tunnel stretches from over 7km to over 10km along the 19.5km route. (Did someone just realise how ludicrous it would look for the highway to fly over the hill railway?)
But how will a tunnel below affect the funicular railway, which the EIA describes as a “sensitive area”?
Thousands of tons of explosives (emulite) will be used to blast through the slopes of Penang Hill to build these tunnels, which are part of the exorbitant RM8bn six-lane highway, courtesy of SRS Consortium’s mega transport shopping spree.
The 10km of tunnels along the hilly central spine of Penang Island will be constructed using the ‘drill and blast’ method.
The state government should tell us how many tons of explosives will be used for this six-lane highway. The EIA says, innocuously: “Approx. 717 kg of Emulite shall be used in the blasting operations.” Is this per blast or per cubic metre or what?
In the absence of official figures, some have estimated that almost 15,000 tons of explosives will be used to construct all the tunnels.
Let’s take the case of the rail tunnel for the electrified double tracking project north of Ipoh, 450 tons of explosives were used under the ‘drill and blast’ method to bore just over 2km of tunnels north of Ipoh. About 120,000 explosive devices were used. Remember, this is much narrower than the broad tunnels required (10km in length) for a six-lane highway. See video below for the narrow rail tunnel:
According to the EIA report (Page 2-12): “The potential encumbrances in the Penang Hill section relate to earth disturbance, potential soil erosion and earth movements, and the subsequent impacts on water quality, noise and vibration, air pollution, traffic congestion and safety issues to residents living near the project corridor.”
And at 188.8.131.52 of the report: “The blasting sites are located in Penang Hill which is a developed area where sensitive and discrete receptors are a concern. Blasting containment and control measures must be closely observed to ensure the proposed blasting operations shall be safely executed.”
(Page 8-63) “Environmental impacts associated with rock blasting operations are mainly related to air quality (dust), vibration, noise, and flyrock. The magnitude and extent of the disturbances will be dictated by various factors relating to the design and control of the blasting operations.
“These factors are influenced by the type and quantity of explosive, blast design, method of initiation, degree of confinement, distance to the nearest structures, geology and
topography and also the atmospheric conditions of the blasting site.”
“After each blast, the fumes and gases in the tunnel will be removed through a ventilation fan installed outside the portal and air is push through the ventilation ducts in the blast
ection” (Page 5-69). What gases? Carbon monoxide?
Of course, they say they will follow blasting regulations and all that…
Don’t worry, they will tell you everything can be “mitigated” (what a loaded word, that).
Good luck, folks.
Ironically, with all this nonsense going on, the state government is proudly proclaiming that it wants to turn Penang Hill into a Unesco ‘biosphere’ to protect the natural habitat. Eh, but it is in favour of blasting the hill with thousands of tons of explosives all along the tunnel alignment. See the disconnect between talk and reality? What is going to happen to the habitat when they start blasting? How many trees will have to be destroyed? Where will the creatures run and slither to, assuming they survive the blasts?
While proclaiming that it wants to create a biosphere on the hill, they say they expect up to 13,000 visitors per day during “super peak” periods. Never mind that this exceeds the carrying capacity of the hill of 10,000 visitors per day as spelt out in the Penang Hill Local Plan. Mind you, this is even before the cable cars can be built.
What are they doing to Penang??
This highway is a myopic plan that is certainly not a long-term solution to relieve congestion. In fact, it will create congestion in city areas where vehicles enter and exit the highway.
As a Penang Transport Council member, I expected better of the new administration. The council itself hasn’t met for ages, but then the major decisions had been made elsewhere, and council members were just presented with a fait accompli – so the council was pretty much useless, anyway. State government leaders would listen with much reverence to their corporate ‘project delivery partner’, who would sit in at most meetings ostensibly to justify their extravagant plans.
As far as the Pan Island Link is concerned, it is back to the same ol’, same ol’ 1970s mindset of building more highways to solve congestion, blissfully free of any concerns about emissions and climate change.
What else do we expect from politicians, cosying up to their corporate ‘project delivery partner’, made up of contractors and developers rather than sustainable mobility experts, (even though the PDP agreement has not yet been signed)? Chances are they won’t be around to deal with the long-term disastrous congestion resulting from their blinkered plan to build more highways.