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Penang asks minister: What EIA laws were broken, pray tell

 | December 22, 2016

Exco member Chow Kon Yeow is puzzled over Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar’s remarks that the EIA for the Penang South reclamation project had failed to follow the law when the state has yet to submit the EIA for approval.

Chow-Kon-Yeow

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang government today asked Natural Resources and Environment Minister Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar in what way the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the proposed Penang South Reclamation project failed to follow the law.

State Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said he did not know how Wan Junaidi had arrived at this conclusion as the EIA had not even been submitted to the Department of Environment (DoE) for approval.

“Studies for the EIA report were done by the consultant based on the Terms of Reference (TOR) that had been approved by the DOE. Before any EIA is done, the TOR for the project must be approved first by DOE.

“We don’t know what the minister meant because we have not even sent in the EIA to the DOE. After the open dialogue on the report, we still need another two weeks to put in written submissions before we send off the report to the department,” he said today at a press conference.

Chow was responding to a news report in a Malay daily on Tuesday quoting Wan Junaidi as saying that the EIA report was incomplete and that it did not answer major issues arising from the proposed reclamation.

In the story headlined “EIA didakwa tak patuhi undang-undang” (EIA said to violate the law), Wan Junaidi reportedly said orders had been given to the relevant agency to study the EIA thoroughly as many issues were unexplained.

Chow said everything was still in progress, and it was “premature to say Penang was not following the law”.

He said perhaps the minister had “jumped the gun”, making conclusions based on some news reports.

“Even LKIM (Fisheries Development Authority of Malaysia) criticised us for not scrapping the project as there will be an environmental impact.

“But all projects have impact on the environment,” he said, referring to an article today in the same Malay daily, quoting LKIM chairman Irmohizam Ibrahim, who accused the DAP-led state government of sidelining the views of the people, namely fishermen.

Chow said Penang never hid the fact that the reclamation project would impact the environment, adding that the EIA also detailed how the development would affect fishing grounds and other natural sites.

“The consultants, who are experts and professionals with experience working with government and private clients, have explained the potential impact.

“The law allows mitigation measures to be taken when there is impact…like with the turtle landing sites that will be traded off.

“Of all landing sites in Penang, those in the southern coast make up 0.2%, meaning that sites where turtles go are on the northern coast of the island. The consultant recommended we mitigate by sponsoring more turtle programmes and studies,” he said.

Chow said the state government, as the mover of the proposed project – which would see three manmade islands reclaimed off the southern coast of Penang Island to fund the Penang Transport Masterplan – had given its commitment to follow the law and work with federal agencies.

“Regulations and requirements will be met by the state and the project delivery partner (SRS Consortium).

“It is not just about being committed. We must comply because that is the only way to get approval… we are following procedures,” he said.

Chow said the EIA report by consultant Dr Nik and Associates Sdn Bhd and the panel of experts appointed to carry out studies was comprehensive, with eight volumes.

The volumes consist of the EIA, studies on hydraulic, water quality and sea turtle landing; and impact assessment studies on fisheries, social, traffic and tsunami.

He said the report, once all submissions had been compiled, including the views of fishermen and the public, would be sent to the DoE.

“We have given assurance that all comments, questions and concerns will be answered and included in the final EIA report to be sent to DoE next month,” Chow said.

The report would also be put up for public display for a month and the locations for the exhibition would be published in the main newspapers for three days, he said.

“The people will then have 45 days to give their feedback on the displayed report,” he said, adding that no work would begin until the EIA was approved.

On claims, reported by Bernama earlier this week, that 98% of fishermen in Penang were against the reclamation project, Chow said the report to be displayed to the public next year would show a better picture.

The Bernama article contradicted the findings for the EIA report that 40.5% of fishermen had agreed to the project in June, compared with 3.5% in January.

“Our results are also based on surveys. Interviews were done with fishermen, businesses and the public.

“The development is for 30 to 50 years into the future, and it is not that fishermen will be deprived of their livelihood… maybe the fish breeding grounds,” he said

“It will be interesting to find out how many fishermen actually fish in the location that will be reclaimed. The study had shown that there are not so many.”


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