Save Pulau Jerejak


This piece was written by Rexy Prakash Chacko, an avid hiker and nature-lover, who is also part of Penang Forum. More Penangites must speak up to save Pulau Jerejak.

Like many other Penangites, I was flabbergasted when reports started surfacing in mid October about development plans for Pulau Jerejak.

An island which seemingly withstood the tests of time had finally fallen victim to development. It was not just the fact that Pulau Jerejak would be developed which bewildered many Penangites, but also the massive scale in which it was to be done.

To add salt to the wound, when plans were announced, they were already approved, without a public consultation or even a mention of an EIA. Wouldn’t a detailed EIA which includes public consultation be a necessity before development of this scale be approved?

And as it was very much expected, politicians traded barbs as to who is responsible but without a clear line in sight as to what could be done to protect the island. It also surprises me as to how long the gazetting of the 295-hectare Pulau Jerejak Forest Reserve is taking, but development plans seemingly take only a fraction of the time to be approved.

Is it that difficult to gazette a forest? Leaving the proposed forest reserve in a state of limbo is dangerous. It raises suspicion, as the land is not under a state of protection and thus can be subject to illegal activities.

Pulau Jerejak is our treasure, and though many of us in Penang have not been there or known it close enough, we would definitely not want to know it as yet another developed isle with towering condominiums and hotels.

Indeed, calls have been made to emulate Singapore in making Jerejak a Sentosa Island in order to benefit the state economy. If indeed it were to be developed for tourism, why does there need to be 1200 residential units on the island?

It also baffles me as to why not many seem to take the example of Pulau Ubin, another outlying island of Singapore which has been made a popular ecotourism destination. Unlike Sentosa, Pulau Ubin has been preserved in its beautiful and idyllic  state, and has become a popular tourist destination among both Singaporeans and tourists alike.

Many go to Pulau Ubin to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown Singapore. Wouldn’t it be better if Pulau Jerejak is developed according to such a narrative?

A green state park where locals and tourists can soak in the beauty of nature, just minutes away from the reality of Penang’s metropolis. And to add to that, Jerejak’s illustrious history as the Alcatraz of Malaysia and a quarantine centre is something unique which not many know and thus can be monetised in the form of heritage tourism.

In fact, the underlying problem is, Pulau Jerejak has never been marketed aggressively for ecotourism or for its heritage and thus most don’t even realize its true value.

While many other cities spend huge amounts of money creating green lungs, Penang is blessed in that we have both green hills and a green island so close to the pandemonium of the city.

We can’t afford to trade this beautiful island for wanton development. A serious reconsideration has to be made about plans for the island and consultation with both the public and environmental groups has to be done the soonest.

Gazette the forest reserve immediately and focus on the rich heritage that this island already has to offer, instead of making it into something which it’s not meant to be.

Penangites direly need more green spaces for recreation and ecotourism and Jerejak is a perfect embodiment of that. Destroying what little that remains, and then spending time recreating nature is not the answer.

We need to save that which remains first. I fear the day will come when the pristine Jerejak of my childhood will be converted into yet another island of condominiums.

Save Jerejak for a truly cleaner and greener Penang.

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1 Dec 2016 8.57am

Recommend viewing: a recent documentary on Pulau Ubin as shown on Singapore’s Channel 8 (English subtitle):

4 Dec 2016 11.16am
Reply to  Anthony

Take a trip back in time on the latest Pulau Ubin tour.

30 Nov 2016 5.49pm

(Some tycoon is allegedly) trying hard to get a casino license – possibly for Pulau Jerejak?

Ho Say Leow
Ho Say Leow
27 Nov 2016 2.53pm

Tiger Park on Jerejak an ideal option to safeguard the natural settings for generations to enjoy!!!

28 Nov 2016 12.36pm
Reply to  Ho Say Leow

Harimau Malaysia knocked out in Suzuki Cup.
Who is to blame? FAM, players or Coach Ong Kim Swee?

30 Nov 2016 12.26pm
Reply to  Ying

Ex coaches Azraai Khor and Wan Jamak has asked Kim Swee to resign for the failure. Meanwhile Penang FA has got a new coach. Also the wonder goal by the Penang player is being nominated for FIFA Puskas award for best goal of the year.

27 Nov 2016 11.58am

how can penang compare with singapore. singapore is a country with very few offshore islands unlike malaysia with many islands. look at google satellite and it is more botak like monk than penang. imagine the kind of water flow into their resevoirs. pulau also used as training for their soldiers. where is famous kota tinggi jungle training school? or now desert training?

27 Nov 2016 11.51am

how can we compare to is a country. past many islands and reclaim to form petrochemical

dr teddy
dr teddy
26 Nov 2016 5.41pm

Has anyone started a petition to save the island?

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6
tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6
26 Nov 2016 3.08pm

Parasitic infection spreading among caged fish near Pulau Jerejak GEORGE TOWN: A parasite infection is spreading among caged fish bred and raised in waters off Pulau Jerejak here. Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) molecular parasitology lecturer from the School of Biological Sciences Dr Zary Shariman Yahaya said caged fish infection by the Neobenedenia Melleni parasite has been on the rise globally due to rapid coastal development. The parasite feeds on the gills of scaly tropical fish, making them unhealthy and unfit for human consumption. “The parasite thrives on layers of sludge in murky waters. They cause distress to fish’s health… Read more »

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6
tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6
26 Nov 2016 2.02pm

Quote: Penangites direly need more green spaces for recreation and ecotourism and Jerejak is a perfect embodiment of that. Destroying what little that remains, and then spending time recreating nature is not the answer. “then spending time recreating nature” – as what SingLand loves to do is an exercise of expensive plastic surgery on non-existing nature in situ. Destroying nature & then recreating nature is a waste of scarce resources which opportunity costs could be channeled to other productive purposes. It’s no different to let the famous Pg food ori-maestros die off (due to gentrification of George Town, etc) &… Read more »

27 Nov 2016 11.48am

what about belum valley? we have highway to paradise otherwise walk or push bike to there?

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6
tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6
28 Nov 2016 9.33pm
Reply to  zoro

Orang Bunian still asking me. Or you prefer they come to you?