Road-widening kicks out Green Lane trees: A sign of things to come


The ill-conceived road-widening along Green Lane will ‘sacrifice’ dozens of trees along Green Lane – and this is only just the beginning. Is this what we want?

The federal government’s failure to provide public transport and our obsession with private motor vehicles (with the federal and state governments ever willing to pander to this obsession through new highways, tunnels and bridges – all big money spinners for the corporate boys) will cost us dearly. Expect more road-widening projects in the coming years to result in more tree-lined streets being stripped bare.

Why is the bus service so poor along Green Lane? What about bicycle lanes along these streets and wider pedestrian walkways? How about water taxis? Forget it. We are more interested in short-sighted solutions like building underpasses and flyovers so that motorists can bypass traffic lights – only to end up in even more choked streets. Green Lane? What ‘Green’ Lane…? At a time when the World Bank is warning us that the planet faces a climate change catastrophe this century, we are stripping our streets of trees.

In many ways, what is happening in Green Lane now is a sign of things to come. It is a battle between two different paths of development – the sustainable model and an unsustainable model. Which is it that we are going to choose? Politicians and planners are inclined to think of short-term solutions. But the ordinary people are here for the long haul.

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Penangites, are you going to sit quietly and allow your streets to be shorn of trees – all because you love your cars so much (because you have been deprived of decent public transport)? How long are you going to sit by and allow politicians and planners to deprive you of decent public transport, bicycle lanes and safe pedestrian walkways? Why should public transport be decided in KL? Why is the federal government holding back improvements in public transport in Penang? Is there nothing the state government can do to encourage greater use of public transport? Why is there no official campaign to encourage more people to use buses and to cycle to work? To promote cycling, we need to plant more trees to provide shade – not remove them from our streets!

Can we not wait to find out the result of the general election before hastily removing the trees? What if Pakatan wins (a big IF) at the federal level? Won’t it then be able to improve public transport, thus saving the trees of Green Lane (just like how Penang was saved in the nick of time from the horrendous Penang Global City Centre project, the last time around)?

What is the history behind the trees along Green Lane? How were they protected for so long? An environmentalist provides the following background:

The angsana trees along Scotland road and Green lane are of a variable age. Some of the big ones on Scotland road and along York Road are about 120 years old and planted by the first curator of the Penang Botanic Gardens, Charles Curtis. According to Prof. Holttum when he came to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Penang Botanic Garden, there was a disease outbreak in the 1920s and this killed off quite a number of angsana in Penang and also Malacca and Singapore. In Penang, the then director of the gardens, Flippanes, replanted the angsanas, which makes the trees about 90 years old.

When the road widening project along Green Lane was proposed in the late 1970s, the trees were to be cut down. The MNS protested strongly and activists went to see the exco in charge, Khor Gark Kim. He then instructed JKR not to cut the trees but acquire land from the private houses so that a row of trees would be at the centre – and the road was a bit crooked and curving in part because of this decision as land could not be acquired continuously on one side of the road. I would give credit to Khor Gark Kim for this courageous decision.

But the serious failure of successive administrations to provide and promote sustainable transport continues to rankle. What we are witnessing now reflects a deficit of vision and imagination for alternative, more sustainable solutions.

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  1. All my lovely trees gone ! Shall we organise a walk to SAVE the trees ??? Where are the Penang NGOs, hope they are still alive. Let’s do it one more time like last time when we save Penang Hill.

  2. It is MPPP and not the Federal Govt. who wants to cut trees Anil Netto ! Cleaner and Greener Penang ??? So why the blame game again. The stupid state govt. after 4 years did nothing on transportation planning; not a single proposal was submitted up to the Federal level, do you know that. Now with the implementation of 87units/ac there are creating more traffic jam so conveniently you put the blame on Federal govt ? I think you better close your blog if you can put in fair constructive comments ! Did the State govt. sponsor your blog ?

    • I agree with you,Max SSK.I now regret voting for Pakatan Rakyat.Their cleaner and greener Penang is a farce.Here in Bukit Mertajam,the council had chopped down so many shady trees and pruned to death several others.As a result you can see many lop sided trees and what was once majestic trees now looking very ugly.Jalan Sri Bukit(formerly Jalan Stowell)is no longer seri(serene) with Gamuda JVC stripping bare nearly the whole road including several big trees that were synonymous with HIgh School Bukit Mertajam.Even the trees providing shade for schoolchildren were chopped down for parking area at entrance road to Taman Bukit.Jalan Kulim greenery is not spared either with majestic trees leading to St Anne Church chopped down and the one leading to town area constantly being pruned to death.Just last Sunday I went up Bukit DO(top of the hill) and what I saw really dispirited me.What was once,probably the largest and tallest tree in and urban are was being pruned,more like hacked with a large crane nearby.The council which we expect to preserve and promote greenery is doing exactly the opposite.The new development areas,eg housing areas now resemble a desert.Just look at Taman Jasa aka Kensington Garden more like in an arabian country.The road side pavements which formerly is planted with grass is now layered with designer concrete or bricks and only ornamental trees were planted.The lazy MPSP is no longer enforcing adequate greenery laws in new housing areas and also not planting any shady trees.The road leading to my Taman used to be cool and windy with oil palm trees surrounding(formerly an oil palm estate) but now the area had been developed and the road widened(Jalan Rozhan) with very minimum space for roadside pavement grass and also again non shady trees(ugly palm tretrees)which are more suited for arid climate planted.The place is now very hot. If Penangites particularly Bukit Mertajamites give Dap and Pakatan Rakyat another 4 years to reign,the powers that will be will chop off the remaining trees and vegetations in the name of development and the population will suffer.To be safe,please vote for Gerakan or Parti Cinta Malaysia.

  3. If Penang state gomen is so ‘hand+feet-tied’ about the o’blady state of affairs of public transports, it can with boasted surplus state coffers help in encouraging Penangites to own electric bicycles (of 25km/h max speed) to help ease traffic congestion. Just give a voucher of Rm1,000 for a start to (test marketing) the idea.
    And for those who want to just hop on a rental bicycle without the hassle of owning one, state gomen can help provide soft loans for enterprising bike enthusiasts (like me) to run electric bicycle rental depots in innercity George Town.
    BUT, please don’t cut anymore trees which provide the much needed shades for encouraging potential cyclists going for a comfortable ride on the road.
    Think out of the box, instead of Speedy Gonzales habits (but) of expensive repercussions just like the Penang Hill Railway Fridge Train that can’t see beyond a hump much like a 4WD going over a 45 degree hill top! Speaking of this hill train, it also has lost much of the shady trees with birds, bees, spiders & monkeys.

    • Good idea on the voucher, it will be even better if there is 6~12 month installment plan for lower income group. Many low income people resort of high interest fee installment by buying stuff from courts,etc, those stuff may not be “necessity”. The small electrify transport is necessity indeed.

      IMHO, the whole funding issue is not trivial even though fed take away all state government right to issue bonds and lottery. Many people didn’t realise, prepaid services is the most successful financing method. With enough sign up/subscriber to particular services, it can enabled many business. Some people will argue that it may create “bubble” services. But unless you can find way to short-selling services, bubble is less likely (unlike the subprime mortgage bond) .

      BTW, I am still puzzling about car workshop in Penang, since the land so “precious”…

    • What Penangites need is a feasible low cost public tranportation plan,not gimmick like bicycle lanes.Typical of Dap state government providing dumb ideas to alleviate traffic congestion and they still had not readied the blueprint for development and transportation in penang after 4 years in the helm.You have to ask yourself are Penangites who are living in a sweltering hot and humid country willing to travel by riding on a bicycle.The chances for men getting rashes in their sc**tum and butt are high because of the heat and humidity.Bicycles as a a mode of transport is viable only in temperate countries.Monorail project is also not suitable for land scarce penang,also it can hamper the quality of life in urban areas.I think trams(used in the by gone era)are a perfect mode of transport for a small city like Georgetown and Penang island.The MRT used in Singapore is by foremost the best solution but should had been done much earlier during the 70’s when the traffic is much lower and vast areas are still undeveloped.The much talked about LRT for longer distance travel can be implemented in Seberang Perai.

  4. Still lock in the good old day mahathirism mentality, I bet Penang people want the tree chop and give way to road, even there is viable alternative.

    To save the tree and tackle the traffics ASAP, keep whining for “better public transport/infrastructure “, will not work.

    Bus and trains and only move limited number of population from point to point, in any time. The capital spending on those stuff are never cheap. On the other hand, the world transportation technology already moving towards(for some of you, moving backward) light-electric-assist personal transport. No expensive “high quality bus lane”(that withstand the weight of lorry/bus) require, no rail way require. What you need to do is , lobby a long stretch of safe bicycle lane/route.

    Day dreaming? Perhaps not. This is no different than the old day when mobile phone getting into our society. 20 years ago, when mobile phone introduce to the country, how many of you say “there should be more public phone to compensate, because mobile phone and tariff are just too expensive” ? The rest is history.

    Light electric transport is similar to the early day of mobile phone. When the industry pickup, massive capital spend on public transport infrastructure are going to waste. And Malaysian has a big headache catch-22 on these old-day obsolete massive MRT,LRT, BRT sunken-cost structure (should we tore down those money wasting infra?) . The old day telco can easily remove the phone booth, scraps the line; but a huge concrete public transport infrastructure, and how you going to remove tons of old/air pollution buses ?

    In contrast, a dense populated city such as Shanghai, 60% people own a electric/normal bicycle and use it for daily commuting.

    I bet lots of Malaysian car drivers will laugh and look down on this “not-so-glamour” pedaling vehicle. In fact, there is no other transport can ease Shanghai 23 millions population metropolitan. No MRT and assist route capable to match the requirement of the population. Even Shanghai city council bans the use of electrical bicycle on highway, they must close one eye on these “not-so-glamour” transport.

    Come back to Malaysia, the new electric bicycle laws just settle down. A max 25 km/h pedal assist electric bicycle don’t need a license. And looking at Penang Island map together with Prai, a small 24V/10AH battery can move a person with little pedaling across 35-50km range. No need to wait for bus, no need a big parking, nor need a huge capital investment for state government. The initiate investment may be high compare to motorcycle (from RM2.5k to RM6k), but the energy bills is just $0.20~0.50 per 50km. Minus the noise, hassle of going to petrol pump, maintenance, etc.

    Nevertheless , Penang people can keep their stubborn “car is the only way to travel” mentality, let the tree chop down and give way to more road, and later bare the consequences of future fuel hikes and super-expensive road maintenance. The current Mahathirism-road-building model is not sustainable. It is just matter of time the bills going to pass down to the car-drivers and even to people that don’t own a car.

  5. It’s certainly a cause for concern that shady trees along the roads apparently aren’t given due priority by the Penang State government and MPPP. Ugly concrete jungle is easy to build, but it takes time and human care to develop and maintain greenery in urban areas like George Town. Penang government should show that it can make a difference in this regard compared to other towns and states in the country.

  6. The blame should be placed squarely on M Kutty and BN…to promote Proton public transportation was totally neglected!

  7. Penangites , are you prepared to sacrifice for the sake of savings the green? Talks are easy but the holistic will is something that doubts. In modern day , we always think of convenience and for that believed that most will want to own and travel with own vehicles. Asked oneself if the local govt will expand shuttle bus services for those mainland to island to work, are we nicely dressed clothes will to slot , queuing up to use this facilities? Take Holland for example , cycling is main transport and automakers weekly uses public transport. Like me , though have few vehicles , don’t mind taking public transport and only uses a vehicle when necessity. For Greenlane probably convert to single lane and less than 2 pax in car will need to pay certain fees to use. Proceeds to be use for road maintenance. This will probably save the trees. As for Federal Govt lacking in funding opposition states, 1’Malaysia and Jani Di Tetapi, does one support double standards policy to his people?

  8. Lastly.. perhaps we are also forgetting the feedback from a very important group that certainly have a “locus standi” in all this.. and this are the commuters themselves who are CAUGHT in the DAILY crawl through this stretch of Green Lane EVERY DAY when they go to work or even the parents/students/bas sekolah drivers on a usual school day..

    That’s why the appropriate word is “sacrifice”.. Some trees are “sacrificed” for the good of many PLUS the trees as attested in last Friday’s Dialogue with the MPPP (btw, any of you were there ?.. I was..) will be TRANSPLANTED !!

    I repeat .. MPPP will TRANSPLANT ALL TREES.. irrespective of their condition.. even if some of them are clearly infested with termites or even have a hollow trunk !! .. simply because as demanded by environmentalist to “not massacre” the trees.

    • MPPP is a damn liar like the State Govt. trees are going to be move and fact is once move, transplant, most likely they will die !
      Why so many cars Green Lane is State directed MPPP to increase density from 30 units per acre to 87 units per acre. Imagine 87 x 2 cars = 174 cars circulating your neighbourhood as compared to 60 cars !! Boon Siew project Bukit Gambir 87 units/acre, Gurney Drive Setia new 48storeys at 92 unit/ac; how am I to save the Trees !

  9. Now a BIG THANK YOU to the environmentalist who were involved in “pressuring” the then YB & EXCO Khor Gark Khim to redeliniate Green Lane to what it is right now.. and this is the very SUCCESS amplified by radiant justice’s Flikr pics.. HUGE COVER from the GIANT Angsana trees in front of PFS till CGL.

    However, as a Penangite.. I was also declare that “we are not the same as Singapore”.. and thus it would be too simplistic to equate the success of the Singapore Public Transport System and even the MRT as something that can be duplicated in Penang.

    Honestly will a “Penang Kia” pay for the MRT to make that short journey to where he or she would be going.. Bike or the usual car would be the vehicle of choice..

    PLUS the Publc Transport in Penang.. sadly due to multiple factors.. can never reach an improved-enough scale where it will be an acceptable choice mode of transport for the masses.

    Honestly, if we ask ourselves or even our children or grandchildren.. they would rather take the car.

  10. these trees no longer serve their purpose as there is no need to shade pedestrians who are now driving in air-cond comfort in their cars.

    balme it on our national automobile policy!

  11. Now to Anil Netto and the composition of your article here.. I must say that it is mighty miss-leading with your article titled “Road-widening kicks out Green Lane trees: This is only the beginning” when the very trees shown in the 3 picture Flickr combo by radiant justice have NOTHING TO DO with the Trees to affected by the Upgrade Plans published last week which is ACTUALLY at the part from Jln Delima heading to the RECSAM roundabout.

    surely a miss-representation that creates or alludes to innuendos !!

  12. Now hold on here.. Let’s put things in its proper perspective..

    Firstly: #max saw, I don’t see the relevance of your post about Ms (X) and Mr (Y) with this topic about “Green Lane Trees”

    Secondly: #Batu Ferrhian, I can emphatize your horror of the “tree sacrifice”.. but surely accusing that Penang State Govt and MPPP “couldn’t care less about the environment” is making 1+1=5 !!

    btw, YB Chow is never suppose to be involved in any decision making about this “Green Lane Trees”.. so I can’t see which important meeting that YB Chow is suppose to attend regarding the “Green Lane Trees”.. Perhaps you’re talking about meetings on other issues which have no connection with “Green Lane Trees”.. lest 1+1=4

  13. Its a damn shame.

    But here is the thing – how to do propose to improve bus services with these 2-lane/way roads? If you go to SG, these places have min of 3-lanes or more/way roads..You can’t run efficient buses system EVEN if you reduce the number of cars…

  14. This makes me very sad and I can’t help but feel somewhat demoralized. The Penang State Gov. and MPPP obviously couldn’t care less about the environment. It seems like they are hell bent in transforming Penang into a concrete jungle..

    It’s not that Penangites don’t care – we do. YB Chow has a knack for NOT SHOWING UP for several important meetings. Maybe developers are (allegedly) paying someone of those in higher position some duit kopi – we’ll never know.

    Honestly, the “WATER TAXI” idea was brilliant. It could shuttle a lot of people around the island without cutting down trees. Just wish the authorities would listen for a change…

    • water taxi – how to get licence? Kopi O licence has to get from DUMNO Federal Government. what about safety? If no safety culture, what happen if the boat sink? Another short sighted term if just to have more boats but no safety.

  15. Well last Sun as (a) convention was going on at (a) hotel , I was informed that this Ms. (X) was staying up late again there to get close to her man. One new revelation is Ms.” X” secured free hotel stays and also tickets from a reputable developer from KL, because she seems to arrange “appointment” on the spot for him. News came from inside that a so called “Tan Sri” visited our big boss penang through this appointment for a project in penang. I was told this project in penang was a hill land approved but now residents had protested so it was put on hold. So Ms. “X” is still … did she had an enjoyable time in (the) Lagoon ? All free wow ?

    Another colleague of hers, Mr (Y) … was furnished with proof by a person who works with a developer that he is the main man now in Penang who is “arranging” land deals. This case involve a former quarry land in Relau, this developer applied for conversion from Hill Land to Residential. And it seems his boss (allegedly) need to buy up (Y) “family member” condo at a inflated price and also gave some “sweets” to him when the application went through ?

    And another case is (Y) also enjoyed the hotel stay at KL by a KL Developer same like Ms. (X).

    …. this is turning into another … circus; one powerfull figure arrange meeting and her colleague arrange deal. I was told many other developers doing the same thing (allegedly) going through Mr. (Y)….; thats why now so “loaded” with M&M chocolate ? Without going through these 2 persons, don’t need to do business …

    • With X chromosome, Y chromosome & KL chromosome in the happy hotel mix, you & I can imagine what kind of a monster of unsustainable development coming to birth in Penang bypassing decent, lawful mutual consent (as in marriage) for decency of land development!
      What happened to Madame Pykett is one such kind of suspected ravaging of excess indecency.
      During the 70s, development in Green Lane was well planned without any behind the scene insemination of dirty X,Y & KL chromosome!!!
      Looks like Penang is a 4-play-ground for KL developers as an alternative to high-living, conjested Bangsar rendezvous!!!

  16. Young Penangites love CARS over trees. Cannot do dating on top of trees but inside the car. Sad but true.


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