I hear that the Department of the Environment quietly approved a preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment of the Penang Global City Centre (PGCC) project way back on 2 March 2007.
A “one-stop centre” meeting approved the preliminary EIA, subject to various conditions (e.g. flood control, air quality, noise pollution, waste disposal) after technical issues were discussed. The EIA apparently considered the impact of pollution, pollution control measures and the management and oversight of the environment.
Shockingly, however, a traffic impact study was deemed to be outside the scope of the preliminary EIA; instead, traffic apparently falls under the jurisdiction of the Penang Municipal Council (MPPP).
It is also surprising that the preliminary EIA has not been widely circulated and publicised, especially since it has already been approved.
From what I understand, the DOE has the discretion to insist on a detailed EIA for projects that are likely to have a significant impact on the environment. Surely, a project of the magnitude of the PGCC, which covers more than 100 hectares, would have a major impact on the environment in terms of the loss of a vast green space, increased pollution and traffic congestion.
Unlike a preliminary EIA, a detailed EIA would require substantial public participation: the public would be given an opportunity to air their views. So why hasn’t there been a detailed EIA? Why deny this right to the public?
With the general election around the corner – and Penang being a “front-line” state and all that – I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a major election issue.
So insist on a detailed EIA with widespread public participation.