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:
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.