Seri Tanjung Pinang Phase 2: A sad, lonely detailed EIA report

Image: tunglang

Another three days to go for the public display of the detailed EIA for Seri Tanjung Pinang Phase 2 to end. Himanshu Bhatt is gripped by a sense of deja vu in recalling the EIA process for Phase 1, seventeen years ago.

Download the Executive Summary of the detailed EIA report (74MB pdf file), which is largely hidden on the DOE website.

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A lonely EIA and Penang’s gigantic reclamation project

by Himanshu Bhatt

I REMEMBER it was sometime in 1996 that a solitary thick bundle was left for public viewing, for just about a month or so, in the Penang state library then located on the third floor of the Dewan Sri Pinang.

The document was the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report on a plan to reclaim a well-known beach and traditional inshore fishing area at Tanjung Tokong in Penang.

Now this was before the Internet became popular. There was no virtual access and very few parties actually made their way up to the place to go through the crucial text.

One of the few parties that did study the document, and which expressed concern about the effects of the project, was the Penang Ratepayers Association then chaired by Datuk Seri Lim Chong Keat.

I personally covered the issue as a young reporter back then, and vividly recall Lim lamenting the utter lack of public participation in such an important EIA and what it represented.

As it so happens, the reclamation went ahead, the original shoreline disappeared, and after some years of delay and change of hands, the new 240-acre land that emerged was eventually developed and named Seri Tanjung Pinang (STP).

Incidentally, it was also about this same time that the tides around the area appeared to change drastically. Most glaringly, the shoreline along the iconic and popular Gurney Drive nearby became reduced into a muddy coastal swamp.

In a strange way, history seems to be now repeating itself.

Since January 24 this year, a new set of EIA documents has been kept at the back of a solitary office of the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) on the relatively quiet fourth floor of Komtar.

Unbeknownst to many, this sizeable bundle of three books can be viewed by anyone from the public – at least those who know of its existence – by being ushered into a backroom.

The document is the EIA for an entirely new reclamation project measuring a gargantuan 760 acres. It covers a further portion of the sea, in front of the already reclaimed Seri Tanjung Pinang.

Dubbed Seri Tanjung Pinang II (STP2) the project is expected to be complemented by additional reclamation – along the coast of Gurney Drive – by about 131 acres.

It is certainly a stunning project, in size and scale.

Meagre and minimal publicity of EIA

But what has taken many quarters by utter surprise is that very few knew that the much-awaited EIA has been available for reading until local activist Anil Netto last week publicised it on his blog.

There were apparently some paid advertisements put up in the media, but seemingly little else than what is legally required.

Certainly, the initiative appears meagre on the part of the authorities, compared to what the state government did late last year in openly exhibiting and announcing with some ceremony the draft of the Special Area Plan for Penang Hill. Copies were also made available on CDs.

In contrast, when I went to the MPPP’s office myself to find the huge bundles of the EIA dropped in front of me, I asked if there was a CD copy I could buy and take back. There was none.

(The EIA is also available on the Department of Environment’s (DOE) website, but there is no direct indication of this on its homepage. One needs to register first by clicking on an obscure button labelled ‘EIA Report’ to be able to access it.)

Even more stunning is the fact that the EIA copy will only be kept for public reading there until this Friday, Feb 21.

Meanwhile, following the submission of the DEIA to the DOE on Jan 13, an investment research firm recently reported that the STP2 reclamation works by Eastern & Oriental Bhd are “on track” to begin in the second half of this year, following the regulatory approval and tendering process.

Contentious PGCC and Penang Hill plans remembered

Now the STP2 would be one of the biggest single projects, in terms of size and monetary worth, in Malaysia.

Uncannily enough, with a thundering gross development value of RM25 billion, it is similar in estimated worth to the immensely controversial RM25 billion Penang Global City Centre (PGCC) that was planned on Penang Turf Club land in 2007.

In terms of being reviled by many local residents and environmentalists, the PGCC was probably second only to the infamous commercial development plan for Penang Hill of the late 80s.

The opposition against that hill plan was so overwhelming that it is said to have contributed to an extent to the defeat and subsequent political retirement of Penang’s respected chief minister, Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu, in the general election of October 1990.

However, as it transpired, the PGCC never got through when its plan was turned down by the MPPP just before the general election of March 2008.

And following the landslide electoral victory of the DAP and its Pakatan Rakyat coalition, the newly minted chief minister Lim Guan Eng later declared the PGCC to be “as good as dead.”

Now, six years after that “political tsunami” of 2008, one may be forgiven for wondering if the “dead” PGCC’s spirit has undergone a resurrection.

The sheer enormity of the STP2 has led to plenty of concerns and questions which were very evident during a public hearing on the project on Aug 24 last year.

From ecological damage to coastal erosion, from traffic dispersal to density issues; the anxieties over the effects of this mammoth plan are by no means unwarranted.

Forewarning from reclaimed island in Johor?

Ironically enough, at the same time that the EIA for STP2 is lying in the quiet MPPP office in Penang, another huge reclamation project off Gelang Patah in Johor is reportedly eliciting angry concerns among locals there.

The DAP’s Gelang Patah MP, Lim Kit Siang, expressed shock at this other project, which has seen a new and still expanding island called Pulau Ubah.

In a strongly-worded statement last Sunday (Feb 16), Kit Siang pointed to its drastic effects – how it has allegedly destroyed the livelihood of 250 fishermen from six Malay kampungs, caused million-ringgit losses through the deaths of ten tonnes of fish and millions of fish fry in ten fish farms in the past 10 days, and how it has damaged the eco-system off the coast of the Gelang Patah constituency.

“The new island is the result of a major scandal of transparency, accountability and good governance in Johor State,” Kit Siang said.

In comparison, the process for the STP2 has been more open.

But this situation seen in Johor must come as a strange, timely reminder for the authorities in Penang.

For it is crucial to ensure that the whole process for the reclaimed island here is complied with, not just what is legally required in the bare minimum.

It must be pursued in a pro-active manner, with utmost transparency and accountability. It is absolutely essential that information is provided with no restraint; and that ample time and opportunity be allowed for public feedback that must be judiciously and independently considered.

The project’s proponents would emphasise that it holds big economic promise, that it would spur progress and help make Penang an international city.

Whatever the pros and cons, the STP2 will affect every Penangite, altering the island and the state, in a way never done before, and therefore merits to be heard, discussed and thrashed out openly and unreservedly.

That would be the hallmark of transparent engagement between government, business and civil society, and the making of a truly progressive and advanced city.

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19 Feb 2014 9.36pm

Very very sad as at this afternoon only a handful viewed the eia report.

20 Feb 2014 11.03am
Reply to  rui

Rui, not many can comprehend n understand n it is about bundle of documents not few pages.

19 Feb 2014 5.36pm

Islandjoe always talks sense and logic, that is what we need here. Tq !

19 Feb 2014 4.17pm

Hi Rich Daddy, I think that strategy is the equivalent of a child throwing his toys out of the sandpit because he’s got no friends, and hope the head boy loses popularity at some point with the other kids before he comes back. In a way I agree with you. The typical BN profile seen so far would only be capable of that strategy. The last election said it all: free food and drink, plus a concert. That was it. Keep that up and LGE will be here forever. So yes I agree. Being like Taib Mahmood is extremely far… Read more »

19 Feb 2014 3.48pm

Yeah, I see the pro-BN supporters go on and on about LGE and his arrogance but not much more. Some are on this blog from time to time of course which I believe they certainly have to right to their opinion, but do they ever look at BN? When REAL issues are raised where even if they didn’t really care about the issues, they could score some political points through cosmetic rumblings in their MSM, they are nowhere to be seen. Where are the BN heroes now? I find it very strange. If I was them, I’d be jumping up… Read more »

Rich Daddy
Rich Daddy
19 Feb 2014 3.28pm

hello Islandjoe,

please read my comment again. No matter what, DAP is going to win the election again and again. What the state opposition do now is irrelevant as long as BN is the fed gomen. The best move for the state opposition is to keep quiet until a lot of mistakes being added up before the election time.

I think LGE will be another legendary politician like Taib Mahmud. Let’s imagine LGE rules Penang for another 30 years. Wow, interesting, must be very interesting ~

19 Feb 2014 4.50pm
Reply to  Rich Daddy

Rich Daddy, Don`t worry LGE may not be able to win the next GE. Gerakan is waiting for the mess until it cannot be undone. Already more and more people are getting disillusion. Kajang is the yardstick. the momentum is still still there for PR but if the majorities is down then you can assess the result the next GE. I believed the majorities will be down by at least 1 – 2 thousand votes.

21 Feb 2014 11.46pm
Reply to  Yang

What mess? Still a kampong champion. Just look at hk. Macau n sinkapore. To build more houses, they have land reclamation. Hk is building another tunnnel under the sea. Hk has to develop its tourism as it cannot sell its ‘made in hk or macau’. If hk does not develop, planes n ships will go straight to cities in China. Gerakan made penang a dead port after losing its Freeport status n losing its manufacting status because of gerakan federal government are producing 3rd class graduates. What can state government do if trains, buses, education are gerakan federally control. Yang,… Read more »

22 Feb 2014 4.35pm
Reply to  Yang

cwf, do you understand what is sustainable development?
Not all kinds of newatered development are suitable, neither to follow blindly what sinkapoh or hk are doing. You need to understand the socio-economic & environmental make up before drowning in newater fads.
Unless of course you are not a Penangite who has no iota of living in the island nor has suffered the environment effects & price spiral.

19 Feb 2014 10.02pm
Reply to  Rich Daddy

Before 30 yrs’ end, I would have gone. “mo gan tai!” (No eyes see).

19 Feb 2014 3.03pm

Are we not all malaysians???

What had happened to a penangnite that led penang for the past 18 years???

To say that only a penang kia can lead penang is so shallow and bodoh!!! I could not believe in this boarderless world we can still make that kind of statement !!!

One word to describe this kind of thinking or mentality – BODOH !!!

19 Feb 2014 4.34pm
Reply to  kee

Any Malaysian can lead Penang but when an outsider who has no passion and continue to deceive and make a mess of our beloved island, its plain stupid to continue believing in him and let him stay . One bitten twice shy. As for me once stupid must wake up but some one still in slumber like a moron

19 Feb 2014 9.58pm
Reply to  Yang

If a dog bites me, I can still forgive & give it a pat on the head.
But if a cat scratches me, I will give it a Mokhtar Dahari thunderbolt football kick!
You see, a dog has ‘lang cheng’, but a cat has none.

19 Feb 2014 2.41pm

I agree that this is a huge change to Penang as it actually will alter what our island looks like on a map! And to have the EIA quietly displayed does not reflect the importance. I believe the indifference with the public can be rightly or wrongly attributed as follows: 1) Guerney Drive is already ruined and people think that this will change it for the better. 2) A PR mega project doesn’t have the usual dirty finger prints of blatant BN corruption and cronyism so people are willing to give it a chance. 3) The sea does not mean… Read more »

19 Feb 2014 4.03pm
Reply to  Anil Netto

apparently coast-mud-politan both sides of the political divides may each being involved (benefited) from the schemes that ordinary folks too busy with high cost livings and not aware of it ?????

19 Feb 2014 12.50pm

Whatever is dead and which will make money will be resurrected by LGE who would not care a damn for you Penangite. Remember he is from Malacca oop or Johore. Why do we have outsider who have no feelings for us at all

19 Feb 2014 11.31am

Anil, can do something, online petition or organise a protest and get all the signatures, have to do fast.

Individual protest is as good as none as how many can give solid reasoning that the authority bother to read.

Tq, now or never.

19 Feb 2014 11.11am

The father cakap banyak in Gelah Patah for his election victory and the son do the contrary for … at the expense of Penangite. What has Penang become. ?? From bad to worse. Botak Hill, Gurney Drive muddy swamp even worse, Tg Bungah & Feringghi Beach pollution where you cannot swim. Have any one notice the deteriorating beach situation along the Lim Chong Eu highway from Sg Pinang up to Queensmall. Does the Cheap Minister care except for high end condo for the rich and powerful. Go to Relau and Sg Ara and see how the whole area have been… Read more »

19 Feb 2014 5.32pm
Reply to  Yang

Meanwhile massive fish deaths in the waters off Tanjung Kupang, Johor, about 3km from a land reclamation project due to industrial pollution or oil spillage?

19 Feb 2014 10.05am

Let the mud be there. Why dredge it? Cost a lot loh. Cleaning ‘mud balls’ for the muddied sea front were just gimmicky public relation exercise. This seafront is destined to be filled up for coastal expansion & tunnel vision, so the demise of this iconic Gurney Drive sea, sand & weekend picnic with a nice sea view. Gurney super expensive condo residents. You are fooled. For the time being, it is lauded (or excused) as a natural mangrove defence against another tsunami. But actually it’s buying time for this STP Phase 2 to proceed (quietly). The mangrove swamp also… Read more »

eng hock
eng hock
19 Feb 2014 10.00am

Those of you who still fancy high rise cosmopolitan lifestyle, go ahead and q for the likes of Sri Tanjung or Penang World City.

For me, i am leaving Penang island and now heading to Sungai Petani to spend my remaining years peacefully. High rise concrete can raise my blood pressure 🙂

Dont need to go as far as Belum Resort Forest, just more reaslitic at Bandar Puteri Jaya & Hill Park in Sungai Petani. I am discovering the food ori-maestros of Sg Petani …….

19 Feb 2014 1.18am

Anil, wat can we do? All eyes up forRMbillions….

19 Feb 2014 10.55pm
Reply to  atila

There’s still time to learn from SingLand… Read: As discontent grows, Singapore budget to tighten noose on the rich Excerpt: With maximum income tax rates of 20% and no capital gains tax, Singapore has long been synonymous with affluence, boasting the world’s highest concentration of millionaires. Daimler’s Mercedes was the top selling car brand last year, followed by BMW, government data shows. (Doesn’t it ring in your ears?) Ten years ago Singapore courted the world’s wealthy, offering permanent residency to people with personal assets of at least S$20 million (RM52 million), as long as they parked a certain amount… Read more »

20 Feb 2014 1.34pm
Reply to  tunglang

In the dogma of economics, Spore is an unqualified success. Never mind that people well into their 70s struggle in retail services, expecting to work till they drop and competing with rich foreign kids earning pocket money for gadgets. No one questioning growth is heeded, regardless of the unquestionable rise in disasters due to climate change from year to year. Some time ago, we laughed at a certain nut wanting to reclaim land off the Kedah coast. Now, like the workers in Animal Farm, we see the new masters doing their best to learn from the supposed enemy. Traditional approaches… Read more »

Rich Daddy
Rich Daddy
18 Feb 2014 10.50pm

Dey Ananars, people stlll ramai-ramai vote Dap no matter what. This is the reality.

19 Feb 2014 8.51am
Reply to  Rich Daddy

Rich Daddy : Thats is why we must continue to inform and tell the truth to change the perception of the people and I believed there is a good chance. PR DAP, PKR and PAs know they can lose, that is why they keep on upping the momentum with all kind of gimmick such as Kajang. Remember after 308, they also did the same thing in the Penaga constituency and and won the first few by election. After that they start losing every by election until this GE when the Allah and other issues played by the opposition cropped up.… Read more »

18 Feb 2014 10.11pm

Aiyoh yoh All lies and deceiving the people and there are people here who thought they are angels.