Seri Tanjung Pinang and Gurney Drive: A lament, more questions


Blog visitor tunglang took these photos of Gurney Drive over the weekend. Who is responsible for this and what has our Department of the Environment done about it?

Obviously the enzyme balls flung hopefully into the muddy shoreline was not the solution. There’s no quick fix when it comes to undoing environmental degradation.

tunglang sent us this message to go with the photos:

Keep Calm.
Kuan Nah Kak (Gurney Drive) Ki Liao.

Many of Penang’s favourite recreational sites – free for Penangites – are now endangered sites, a self-contradictory ‘impasse’ in the passion for our hard-earned Unesco heritage status i.e. the old world charm of George Town.

What is an island with two longkangs doing in an environmentally unstable sea deluged with strong undersea currents? What amount of erosion and mud deposition from exploitative and ostentatious development will harm Gurney Drive and its coastal nature is anybody’s guess – after witnessing the present black mud bath during low tide opposite Gurney Plaza.

And don’t forget Muka Head with its pristine emerald sea water is in danger of turning kopi-susu from offshore deposition of unwanted waste from ‘richie’ land development.

Affordable housing is not required on an expensive artificial island designed for the rich and famous – but a proper sense of basic housing with amenities is all we Penangites expect, not homes for a wanton display of the ‘Bing Chui’ lifestyle that is unaffordable when considering the current economic and financial indebtedness of many households.

Keep calm. Keep away from the frenzy of a cosmopolitan nightmare-in-the-making on an island that once upon a time promised a good life – a safe and sustainable Penang lifestyle – for everybody.

Someone pointed out to me that in terms of the number of acres of prime land and the number of houses for the wealthy, Seri Tanjung Pinang Phase 2 dwarfs the controversial Penang Global City Centre project, which was opposed by NGOs – and the DAP before it came to power and then cancelled the project.

STP2 will have 12000 houses, while PGCC had plans for 6900 homes.

STP2 will be built over 760 acres, whereas the PGCC site covered 256 acres.

Both STP2 and PGCC have/had a gross development value of around RM25bn.

STP2 assumes highways and an underpass below Pangkor Road will be constructed, whereas PGCC assumed a monorail system would be put in place.

STP resurrects a large section of the Penang Outer Ring Road in the former of the Gurney Drive Expressway. Part of this Expressway is even on land reserved under STP Phase 1 for PORR, which was another project that many in Penang opposed.

Many are hoping for more sustainable transport – not more highways – as the overwhelming feedback during the public consultation workshops for the Penang Transport Masterplan indicated.

One important question that was raised at the public dialogue was whether the reclaimed land would be freehold or leasehold.

E & O responded that under the terms of the agreement, it would be 99-year leasehold land. (This is actually in keeping with the law that insists that foreshore land be classified as leasehold land. The rationale for this, I believe, is to maintain public access to the seafront and the state’s right to carry out marine activity along the coast.)

But under STP Phase 1, the developer applied for the leasehold land to be converted to freehold land and this was granted by the state government, apparently with the payment of a conversion fee (how much?). The developer indicated that it would also be applying to the state to convert Phase 2 to freehold land as well and was willing to pay the conversion charge.

The question now, given that the state only received a nominal value in exchange for awarding the reclamation rights for a whopping 980 acres to the developer, is, should the state allow the conversion to freehold land? Is it also going to hand over the land in (freehold) perpetuity lock, stock and barrel?

Finally, the larger question, which I sense many Penangites are concerned about: what kind of model of development are we pursuing when new housing seems to cater to the wealthy, many of whom are not even resident in Penang and buying up property for ‘investment’/speculation?

Where does this leave the lower-income group and even the middle class? Are we creating even more and more enclaves for the wealthy while leaving the lower-income group (who will live outside these enclaves) to serve in low-paying jobs like guards, waiters and store assistants?

One sociologist asked:

Why is the state government allowing so much construction in Penang? It is a shame that development in Penang is changing our landscape so much.

And my question is whether all this is really benefiting the ordinary people in Penang. The housing projects are mainly for the rich. Why not build more affordable homes?

And not sure if all the development is actually creating jobs for people – I feel the high crime rate in Penang and elsewhere is due to the lack of decent jobs.

Perhaps the youth are so taken up by the modern life-style they see around them (branded items sold in the increasing number of malls around us). Without decent jobs, people turn to crime so that they too can have what the rich are enjoying.

I just wish development in Penang and Malaysia goes along a different path.

Blog visitor Kevin adds:

All very valid points. Reclaimed land should never be granted on a freehold basis regardless of whether the developer is willing to pay the conversion fee. In fact the lease period should be lowered to 60 years, not the present 99 years. I am sure that would have some effect in lowering the prices.

Also, the coast/seafront of all reclaimed land should be kept open to the public. The Singapore government reclaimed more than 10km of coastline in the 1970s but no development was allowed on the seafront. Instead an open park and beach called the East Coast Park was created stretching more than 10km long and 185 hectares in size. Development was only allowed in-shore. The description can be found here.

Can you imagine a park that is 10km long (approx five times longer than Gney drive) built entirely on reclaimed land more than 30 years ago? Here, developers are allowed to reclaim 1000 acres and only return 50 acres to the people.

To be fair, speculation is not within the control of the state. Bank Negara and the housing ministry should put a stop to the current practice where people buy property by paying only 1 to 10 per cent and only start servicing the loan when the property is completed. Many people who do not even have the money are able to hoard property and re-sell it for a higher price. Developers should be made to adopt the build and then sell approach used in many developed countries.

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29 Aug 2013 9.42pm

How come Uncle Kit Siang don’t blog about this?

don anamalai
don anamalai
28 Aug 2013 11.47am

Do not be surprised if the postcode at Gurney Drive be changed to 90210?

Then Suhaimi Baba can made a movie Gurney Drive 90210?

28 Aug 2013 8.28am

Penang ….. Endless Possibilities. Why am I not surprised that this would happen?

27 Aug 2013 4.51pm

1st 5 years it was CAT by LGEs PR Govt. 2nd 5 years – its now MUD, Management Under Developers. LGE is bending backwards to please developers and Speculators. Hindu Endowment Board under DCM Ramasamy can’t a simple thing like having proper incinerators for cremations right. All of CMs plans are to bring in the rich from outside and throw out the original islanders to the mainland. Anyway, how does he care? he is also from Melaka. There is a huge high end and condominium glut in Penang, and speculators are having a field day. Rome burnt while Nero was… Read more »

27 Aug 2013 8.09pm
Reply to  SamG

Any which way the Federal govt also have to be blamed. Their 1Malaysia Cheap affordable house is price up to 400k making the developer build even more expensive house. Remember before GE the Cheap PM even teamed up with the Joe Loh and Gah Chin Loi one of a bankrupt developer.

27 Aug 2013 2.05pm

If E&O manage to convert the leasehold status of STP2 into freehold just like they did for STP1, then the residential properties of STP2 will be a success ( okay, depends on the pricing as well, I know ) but if it remains on leasehold, it is unlikely to be as successful as STP1.

As for the malls, cafes, etc etc, it will probably go along the same route as the current mall in Straits Quay. Anyone who has been there and seen the traffic in the mall knows exactly what I mean.

G Dorai
G Dorai
27 Aug 2013 1.58pm

Make property speculation costly. Read today’s The Sun :

Property speculation has created frenzied buildings to the detrimental of natural beauty if Penang (eg shameful look of Gurney Drive coastline compared to yesterdays).

27 Aug 2013 12.31pm

Has anyone else noticed the increasing erosion rates along Tunjung Bungh Beach? My wife and I first began walking along this beach in December 2010. Then there were a line of at least 6-7 coconut trees along the upper berm of the beach. These have since been undercut by wave action and have now disappeared. Next to the Naza Hotel, the bank above the sand, formerly protected by a line of large concrete drainpipes has been eroded and now the concrete pipes lie on their sides and have no protective value. The steps down to the beach from the Naza… Read more »

27 Aug 2013 11.16pm
Reply to  Michael

The muddy-mud was already accumulating along Gurney Drive before Boxing Day December 2004. The Tsunami hauled them onto the road & parked cars that fateful day.
Now the muddy-mud have accumulated more & spread into the open sea. Imagine another tsunami, what a slippery mud bath Gurney Plaza & Paragon will enjoy!

27 Aug 2013 10.14am

Bank will not give out loan that are leasehold 60 years. Most govt land will always be on a leasehold to ensure that the future govt can have access to the land

ooi shi
ooi shi
27 Aug 2013 7.50am

Rakyat appointed YBs should raise the issues in Parliment.

Penang is unlike Singapore where purchasing power of them are so much higher than general Penangites. Consumerism driven (shopping) strategy of Spore can never work in Penang. Many tourists get turn off by the diminishing rustic charms of Penang by concrete commercial cum residential units.

The so-called rich ones who plan to retire and live at those super-condo unlikely to contribute to local economy. They prefer to shop at more trendy places like Spore or Bangkok.

Wee Chin
Wee Chin
27 Aug 2013 10.32am
Reply to  ooi shi

Penang is trading its rustic charm for modern concrete jungle?
Unesco must step in to review its heritage status.
No way Penang could compete with Singapore for modern shopping malls.
Do not kill the golden goose for the instant golden egg.
Preserve your heritage, please!

27 Aug 2013 11.50pm
Reply to  ooi shi

Ask the head honcho of Penang state tourism: What is the strategic position for Penang? What are the strengths & competitive edge that draw foreign tourists year after year. Easy to find answers. Ask the repeat visiting tourists what actually woos them to come here for more? If we just think the rich Arabs are here to shop & spend wildly, you have made a miscalculation. The same goes for the Chinese tourists from China. They are here for cultural tourism, not shopping till drop dead which they could do overnight just across the straits in Hong Kong. The Ang… Read more »

Goay Weng Leng
Goay Weng Leng
27 Aug 2013 1.21am

DOE is surely sleeping atas LUMPUR !!! The Developer’s submission to DOE and MPPP for reclaimation works certainly contain the specific Mitigation Measures in combating the threat of siltation and mud slab forming at the shores ! What has the Authority ( DOE and MPPP ) done about it ?

If the developer fails to clear and clean up such RUBBISH clearly displayed at the shores, then they shouldn’t be allowed to escalate further RUBBISH dump to our prestigious shore !!!

Whose fault is it now ???

27 Aug 2013 12.15am

All very valid points. Reclaimed land should never be granted on a freehold basis regardless of whether the developer is willing to pay the conversion fee. In fact the lease period should be lowered to 60 years, not the present 99 years. I am sure that would have some effect in lowering the prices. Also, the coast/seafront of all reclaimed land should be kept open to the public. The singapore govt reclaimed more than 10km of coastline in the 1970s but no development was allowed on the seafront. Instead an open park and beach called the east coast park was… Read more »

26 Aug 2013 11.13pm

Are the photos showing pollution along gurney drive – caused by the multiple drains flowing refuse and sewerage directly into the sea? Drains from the houses, condos, shops, etc across the road?

27 Aug 2013 9.54am
Reply to  Tigerz67

Pollution of mud from drains? I beg to differ. These are apparently from the northern side of the island, from frenzy development in Tanjung Tokong (this part was developed way before 2008) Tanjung Bungah (the last few yrs) & could also drifted from the dumping (from dredging of Pg Port) 40km off Muka Head. Don’t under-estimate the hauling power of the undersea current – have we not learnt from the recent 2004 Tsunami? What I saw on the day I took the photographs was unbelievable: ‘tombstones’, dead trees, message in a bottle, stagnant pools, concrete slabs (for developers’ grand standing… Read more »