Reveal DoE terms for Penang roads project contractor, urges NGO

CHANT legal adviser Yan Lee says residents along the roads’ alignment have a right to know what is going on in their backyards.

GEORGE TOWN: An NGO wants Putrajaya to reveal the conditions imposed on a contractor of a major roads project in Penang by federal environmental regulators last year to enable affected residents to know how the project impacts them.

Citizen Awareness Chant (CHANT) said the Department of Environment (DoE) had approved the three main roads project with 59 conditions last November.

The roads project is part of the larger RM6.3 billion undersea tunnel project, undertaken by Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd.

CHANT legal adviser Yan Lee said at a news conference today that repeated requests by a residents’ association in the affected area to find out the 59 conditions drew no response.

He said the conditions placed by the DoE should be revealed in the spirit of freedom of information so that residents along the road alignment are fully informed over what is going to happen in their backyards.

Lee said there are three people who could do so—the chief minister, DoE director-general and Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd (CZC), the contractor.

He said the best way to allay the people’s concern over the project is to hold an open forum or a townhall meeting for the contractor to explain what is going to happen.

“We are not experts and cannot decide whether this project should take off, pending a proper explanation from the contractor.

“We sincerely hope any of these three parties will reveal the 59 conditions as it is a matter of public interest.

“The prime minister had promised a more transparent government, minus cronyism and the ‘kautim’ culture. So, what better way to honour that but for the Penang government to reveal the conditions?” he said.

Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin’s office recently informed CHANT that it would help organise a townhall meeting on major highway projects in Penang.

Lee said there has been no update on the offer since late last month.

The three main roads (formerly three paired roads) stretch from Air Itam to the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway (5.7km), Tanjung Bungah to Teluk Bahang (also known as North Coast Paired Road or NCPR) (10.53km), and Jalan Pangkor-Gurney Drive junction to Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway (4.1km).

The Penang government had said the DoE set 59 conditions, mainly pertaining to matters before, during and after the construction of the roads.

The NCPR will take off first, the authorities have said, with civil society groups objecting to the construction over environmental concerns such as encroachment of forest land.

The NCPR will run along the foothills some 200m from the Teluk Bahang roundabout and ending near the Muniswarar shrine at Jalan Lembah Permai.

It will have three interchanges — Jalan Sungai Emas; Persiaran Sungai Permai and near Chin Farm Waterfall, which are all in Batu Ferringhi.

The three paired roads project is a component of the undersea tunnel project connecting George Town and Butterworth. The tunnel project is expected to begin in 2023 if necessary approvals are obtained. The total cost of building the tunnel and three roads are estimated at RM6.3 billion.

The undersea tunnel and three roads project are separate from another highway project that has been hotly debated of late, the Pan Island Link 1 (PIL 1).

The 19.5km PIL 1 will connect Gurney Drive to the second bridge on the south of Penang Island. The highway, which will snake through the island’s hill range, has been a subject of contention by civil groups.

The Penang government had said the project is still at the proposal stage pending DoE’s review and welcomed any feedback.

FMT has contacted Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow for comment and is awaiting his reply.