An article that appeared on fz.com
by Sangeetha Amarthalingam
GEORGE TOWN (March 19): Hidden in the colossal mountain of words in the Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) of the second phase of the Seri Tanjung Pinang (STP2) project are highly disturbing indications of what Penang island is to become.
The DEIA reads: “The natural panorama of the seaview fronting Gurney Drive will be replaced by the built-up islands which would have their own charms attracting different types of visitors or tourists.
“Nonetheless, the creation of the islands would forever alter the map of Penang’s coast.”
The 760-acre reclamation project is being carried out by Tanjung Pinang Development Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of E&O Property Development Berhad, in a bid to complete the 980-acre development, Phase One of which, covering some 220 acres, was reclaimed in 2006.
The DEIA was exhibited between Jan 21 and March 7 but with very little publicity, and most Penangites were not aware that the information about the project was on display for their comments. However, they can be expected to feel the impact of the project if it takes off.
Researchers from Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) who studied the DEIA found that the “proposed coastal reclamation is not justified and comes at a price of its adverse impact on the environment”.
The president of both groups, SM Mohamed Idris, said environmental impact mainly rose from the loss of coastal resources apart from the adverse effects of accompanying activities such as offshore dredging for fill material off the Perak coast.
“The major aspect of the development is creating two man-made islands where about 33.1 million cubic metres of sand or fill material is required.
“We find that the proposed development is purely for economic purpose without taking into account the environmental and social cost of reclamation.
“The appraisal process to justify the project tends to overstate the benefits and understates the costs, making it appear desirable.
“Besides this, there has been no study on the demand projections for the facilities that would be constructed,” he said.
Referring to the DEIA’s statement of need, he said STP2 was justified in order to relieve growth pressure and land scarcity but it failed to consider all other ongoing projects on Penang island including the reclamation near the Penang bridge and housing projects in other parts of the island.
He pointed out that according to the Penang Structure Plan 2005-2020, a total of 68,344 housing units was required by 2020, of which 30% or 20,503 units were low-cost housing units.
“The DEIA should have included data on the current number of housing units on the island, ongoing housing development projects, and projects that have been given planning permission by the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP), before justifying STP2.
“The statement of need must mention the environmental trade-offs associated with the proposed reclamation and whether it would bring positive net benefits to society as a whole.
“What are the environmental costs involved and do they outweigh the expected economic benefits?
“What are the remedial and mitigation costs that have to borne by the government following the adverse impact of this proposed project?” he asked.
The DEIA featuring 18 chapters and an executive summary was prepared by Dr Nik and Associates Sdn Bhd and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM)’s Institut Kajian Perubahan Iklim.
It stated that the STP1 reclamation that covered 240 acres was completed in 2006 while an approval in principle to reclaim the remaining 760 acres for STP2 was obtained in April 2011.
The project to be built over 30 years has been broken up into three parts – Phase 2a (a 5km-extension from STP1 at Tanjung Tokong to Gurney Drive), and 2b and 2c which are islands separated by a 50-metre-wide canal.
In a letter to the Department of the Environment (DOE) outlining its feedback on the DEIA, Mohamed Idris also criticised the potential accretion and erosion ensuing from STP1 that should be studied first because the STP2 was a continuing project.
He said the impact study was necessary particularly after the effects pointed out by the Penang Drainage and Irrigation Department deputy director Mohd Abu Bakar Othman, who said in 2011 that mud was building up along Gurney Drive.
Mohd Abu Bakar had then said this was due to the weak sea current not being able to wash the sediments away.
“He had attributed the problem to the nearby STP1 project which played a part in preventing sediments from flowing away properly.
“Mohd Abu Bakar said this after a two-year Integrated Shoreline Management Plan study in 2010,” said Mohamed Idris.
He added that apparent erosion currently happening along the Batu Ferringhi coast must be studied in order to determine its cause.