If you thought the Seri Tanjung Pinang Phase 2 land reclamation was massive, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The Penang Development Corporation has controversially invited proposals for project management consultancy for 1500 acres of land reclamation which encompasses the ecologically sensitive Middle Bank. Who cares about the ecology when Big Business is involved, right?
The PDC had issued the request for proposals for “project management consultancy cum conceptual master planning consultancy for Middle Bank reclamation Penang and its associated civil and infrastructure construction and linkage to Penang Island and mainland Butterworth”. Interested firms were to submit their proposals by 15 May 2014.
The plan covers 1500 acres of the Middle Bank, which is shallow and thus cheaper to reclaim. But the Middle Bank contains 125 acres of sea grass – the second largest patch in the peninsula after Johor, where the sea grass is also under threat from another land reclamation project.
Sea grass serves as valuable fish breeding, nursery and feeding grounds for a variety of marine life; the sea grass at Middle Bank is thus home to many species of marine creatures and crustaceans such as “sea anemones, hermit crabs, cockles, clams, sea urchins, fan shells, sea cucumbers and octopuses”. Middle Bank also provides food for fish, dugong, crabs, geese and swans.
No wonder the Penang Inshore Fisherfolks’ Welfare Association (Pifwa), which represents 10000 fisher folk including about 4000-5000 regular full-timers in the state, is unhappy.
Then, there’s an added consideration: if the 891-acre STP2 land reclamation requires 33 million cubic metres of sand or fill material and two million tonnes of rock, how much more will the 1500-acre Middle Bank require and where will the material come from?
The site has been mentioned as a possible target of yet another controversial land-for-infrastructure swap deal. The project could involve a link from Penang Island to the Middle Bank – and another link to the bridge or the mainland? Some part of this project could face IJM’s Light project along the Jelutong Expressway. (There goes the ‘sea view’ of those supercondos and sea-front bungalows?)
The Middle Bank land itself could be worth RM20bn and if that’s the case, how much would the gross development value be worth – RM40-50bn?
But how do you put a price on the loss of precious and priceless marine resources and food security (fisheries)? There are some things that money just cannot buy or compensate for.