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NCER: Transforming agriculture – for whom?

On 30 July, the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER) master-plan was launched with much fanfare. Among other goals, the blueprint aims to transform agriculture in the rice-bowl region of Malaysia.The masterplan was designed by Sime Darby although the project will be implemented by a regional coordinating authority, chaired by the Prime Minister.

On the face of it, it all sounds great. After all, if we can increase our food production and be more self-sufficient, then we would achieve food security, right?

But there are some underlying issues that have not been highlighted in the mainstream media.

Sime Darby is not a disinterested party. It is eyeing the seed market and planning to produce patented “mother seed” for 10 popular crops, which it wants to sell, along with fertilisers, to contract farmers. Not only that, the firm will eventually buy the farmers’ produce, process it and market it via Tesco (in which Sime Darby has a 30 per cent stake).

To get this scheme started, Sime Darby will introduce mechanised agro-business methods on a 700-acre model farm to a core group of pioneer farmers, who would be paid monthly salaries higher than the average farmer’s income. The contract farmers, once trained, would become contract farmers working on land allocated to them by the government or on plots merged through cooperatives.

Lipstick on the PGCC gorilla

The PGCC developers talk about building a zero-carbon city, but they don’t tell us about the scale of carbon emissions during the years of construction.

It might be worth looking at what people in the know are saying about large so-called “eco-projects” elsewhere.

Check out this excerpt from The Georgian, Issue 1, 2007. The Georgian is the magazine of the Georgian Group, a national charity in the UK dedicated to preserving Georgian buildings and gardens. Every year, the group is consulted on over 6,000 planning applications involving demolition or alterations.

Lipstick on a gorilla

Nowhere are the contradictions of building these eco-homes better illustrated than in Dalston, East London. The Victorian theatre there, and adjoining late Georgian houses, were recently demolished to make way for a transport interchange, as part of a regeneration exercise loosely linked to the 2012 Olympics. The development contains homes complete with wind turbines, and the tower blocks will have ‘green’ roofs. As the propaganda has it, the whole exercise is environmentally sustainable. But once construction starts, more that seventy-five lorries will be arriving at the site daily, for several months. The Carbon Trust estimates that the carbon emitted in building the reinforced concrete slabs alone will be something like 15,000 tonnes, equivalent to the Greater London Authority’s carbon emissions from electricity use for the next twelve years – or the amount that would be emitted if the mayors of London and Hackney flew across the Atlantic and back continuously from now (2007) until 2045. – Robert Bargery, editor

You still think it’s going to be “zero carbon”? Aren’t we having wool pulled over our eyes?

This makes the Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi’s call to fast-track the approvals process all the more irresponsible. What we really need is a thorough, detailed, independent EIA process.

Main Penang NGOs express alarm over PGCC

If Patrick Lim and Equine Capital think it is going to be smooth sailing after the Prime Minister announced that approvals for the PGCC would be fast-tracked, they had better think again.

This morning, half a dozen of the main Penang NGOs came together to express their stand against the development of the PGCC at a packed press conference held at the CAP office. Also present was a cameraman (the logo on the camera said ntv7, but I am not so sure) who meticulously videotaped the proceedings. (Let’s see what comes out on ntv7 tonight. I am not holding my breath.)

Present were representatives from CAP, Penang Heritage Trust, Malaysian Nature Society, Sahabat Alam Malaysia, Cepat, and Aliran as well as other concerned Penangites.

The site of the project – the present Turf Club – was originally given by the government for a nominal sum and was zoned as ‘Open Space’. This was changed very recently to ‘Mixed Development’, even though public opinion was unanimously against it (judging from the submissions sent in by the public during the 2007 Structure Plan exercise), the NGOS said in a joint media statement.

“By doing so, the State has acted arbitrarily and sacrificed the interests of the community to a group of developers,” they said.

The NGO representatives expressed particular displeasure over the fact that the project is being steamed-rolled through and imposed from the top-down without full and open public consultation.

What Patrick Lim didn’t show us: The missing 35 towers

PGCC from Batu Gantong

Holy shmoly! What the…

So PGCC master planner Nasrine Seraji claims I misquoted her and took her comments out of context. She was reported as saying that those comments were made four years ago and that no slides or pictures were shown on my blog post, which she claims was also not in the context of her conference.

But those comments were published by Canada.com last November, less than a year ago. Take a look at my original post here, where you can also find the link to her full original Canada.com interview (which doesn’t contain any pictures and slides either) and then you decide if I misquoted her and put her views out of context.

You want to talk about not giving the full picture and putting things out of context? Patrick Lim, Fox Communication and the mainstream media have been misleading the public by telling us only about the “iconic” crooked twin towers. (One of them is 66 storeys high by the way, almost similar to Komtar, that ugly protrusion in the centre of George Town.)

They have not shown the public what the other 35 towers on the site would look like. (Yes, I have recounted – there will be 37 towers in all, almost all of them over 40 storeys high.) The above view (which is actually a cut-out model done to scale on the actual plan – minus the Fox gloss) is what my late grandma and my late dad will see from Batu Gantong. (The crooked towers are at the top left and Scotland Road is on the right at the bottom.) Not a pretty sight.

Towers rattle and shake after “iconic” towers’ masterplan launched

PGCC towers

When I requested my late dad and my late grandma a couple of days ago to watch over the green spaces surrounding their final resting place at the Bukit Gantong columbarium, neighbouring the proposed Penang Global City Centre, and to ask God to preserve the environment there for future generations, I wasn’t expecting anything earthshaking.

What a day to launch the masterplan of those “iconic” PGCC towers! (Wonder why they can’t say the word “towers” without adding the adjective “iconic” before it. Don’t they have any other word?)

Hours after the launch on 12 Sept, we had an 8.4 earthquake off nearby Sumatra, a tsunami alert, and people fleeing from high-rise buildings.

Too bad for Patrick Lim and Fox Communication that news of the quake and the tsunami alert shoved aside reports of the PGCC launch from the front pages of the newspapers yesterday. There are some things that even a PR firm can’t anticipate or handle.