Construction of three highways in Penang Island is expected to begin in June 2016, but the consortium will only need a preliminary EIA before starting work. This is such a major project – highways near hills and densely populated areas – and yet, they don’t need a detailed EIA?
But then again, a detailed EIA doesn’t mean much if it doesn’t address the concerns of civil society as Penang Forum found out when they submitted a detailed report to the federal Department of the Environment, listing out their concerns over the Seri Tanjung Pinang Phase 2 land reclamation project.
The DOE didn’t bother to reply and instead promptly approved the project.
CAP and SAM have already come out strongly against the lack of a detailed EIA for the highways and questioned their sustainability:
“In September 2015, CAP and SAM had voiced objections over the Department of Environment’s requirement that the project proponent of the three road packages in Penang Island only needed to submit a preliminary environmental impact assessment (EIA). This would mean that the public will not have an opportunity to review the EIA report and provide their feedback.”
He said CAP and SAM letters to the department calling for a detailed EIA report to be submitted to enable public participation had gone unanswered.
“We had also questioned the necessity of the road projects. We need to move people, not vehicles. We need changes in urban and transport planning to ensure reliable, efficient and affordable public transport.”
This is the report in the Insider:
Zarul said the consortium is currently waiting for the Penang state government to conduct an independent environmental assessment of the three road packages.
“What is pending now is that the state government is going to appoint an independent environmental consultant to look at it (the road projects), and to get approval from the Department of Environment (DOE) for the three highways,” he told The Edge Financial Daily in a recent interview.
“It will not take long because the DOE has already given us the go-ahead, but we have to get the state’s independent environmental consultant’s assessment, and submit with the preliminary environmental impact assessment (EIA), to get a formal approval,” Zarul explained.
He said the environmental assessment of the three highways can be done relatively faster than for the undersea tunnel, which would take up to 18 months.
“Unlike the undersea tunnel, where there are more environmental concerns, the DOE has already given us a letter for the three highways, which stated that we only need a preliminary-EIA to start construction,” Zarul added.
As the highways would take about six years to complete, Zarul estimates that CZBUCG would begin the EIA application for the undersea tunnel by 2017 or 2018.