What’s going on in Penang, asks activist

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PETALING JAYA: Civil rights activist Anil Netto has decried the development model and land reclamation in Penang, which comes with an environmental and social cost to its people.

Taking to his blog, Netto posted a series of photos of the various development and land reclamation projects taking place around the island.

This included the 760-acre land reclamation and property development project off Tanjung Tokong and the 130-acre land reclamation project along Gurney Drive for another property development project and an eight-lane highway which includes the Gurney Wharf.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult for the fisherfolk of Tanjung Tokong to go out fishing.

“So much of our fish has to be imported – and this in a state that is almost surrounded by the sea.”

He also lamented the ruins of the historic Runnymede property, which was once home to Stamford Raffles, as well as the destruction of hilltops in Teluk Bahang and Juru.

Netto highlighted a hill slope under construction in Tanjung Bungah which seemed to have partially collapsed, and questioned the fate of the trees along Lebuhraya Thean Teik.

“What’s going on there? I am just showcasing a smattering of what is happening with our natural and built heritage.

“As you can see, what is happening affects the land, the sea, the hills. It is not as if the population of Penang is increasing rapidly and there is a great demand for more land to be cleared.”

Netto said, however, that the same kind of development was happening in many other parts of Malaysia, including the Barisan Nasional-administered states, but he was highlighting what was going on in Penang because he was based there.

He said he was not being anti-development, but that he only questioned the type of development the people wanted and who it benefited.

“Who profits financially and who bears the social and environmental costs? Is the solution political change or does the change first begin with how we view ‘development’ and what kind of development model we want?

“Do we want a development model that is in harmony with the environment and tries to keep the ecological balance, or do we want a model that allows corporations and others to trample all over it?”