NGOs want ‘drill and blast’ highway in Penang scrapped

NGOs led by Penang Forum demanding an urgent review of the PTMP and the cancellation of the PIL 1 highway project.

GEORGE TOWN: A group of 40 people from various NGOs protested outside the Penang legislative assembly building here today, demanding that a proposed highway project that would drill through the hills of the island be immediately shelved.

The protest was led by members of the Penang Forum, who said the 20km Pan Island Link 1 (PIL 1) project was “no good” for Penangites.

Spokesman Khoo Salma Nasution said the larger RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) should be reviewed as well, as it would do more damage than good for Penangites.

The PIL 1 project will connect Gurney Drive in the north of Penang Island to the airport in the south.

PTMP is the Penang government’s plan to build light rail, highways and other means of transportation which will be financed through the creation of three reclaimed islands south of Penang Island.

“First things first, please scrap the PIL 1 altogether. Let’s give public transport a chance. If we keep building roads, there will be more cars.

“What we want is more public transport, not more roads. Remember, this project will affect not only us, but our children and generations to come,” Salma told reporters here today.

She also rapped the state government for only displaying the blueprint of the project during the Chinese New Year holidays, when many were not free to view it.

Ideally, she said, it should be placed online for all to access.

She said the Council of Eminent Persons had been notified about the issue, and that the leaders supported a review of the PTMP.

Also present at the protest were former Tanjung Bungah assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu and former state executive councillor from the Gerakan era, Kee Paik Cheen.

The highway in question is a 19.5km, six-lane, toll-free road which will connect Gurney Drive to the second Penang Bridge in Bayan Lepas.

The highway will have a 10km section with four tunnels, which have been proposed to be “drilled and blasted” through the hill slopes of Penang Hill, Paya Terubong and Sungai Ara.

The state government said it was necessary to have tunnels instead of creating elevated structures to avoid cutting down trees and evacuating residents along the route.

According to a public report of the project on display, over 700kg of explosives will be needed to blast through the hills. The Penang Forum said the estimated number of explosives would be more than that.

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