EIA expert: Safe to use 4,000kg explosives in Penang highway

GEORGE TOWN: A company that prepared the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the proposed Pan Island Link 1 (PIL 1) highway in Penang has allayed concerns over its drill-and-blast method in constructing tunnels through the hills, saying it was safe.

Environmental consulting firm Wiranda (M) Sdn Bhd director Mohammad Ismail Yaziz said the blasting will be controlled with all safety measures put in place and would not adversely affect the environment.

The PIL 1 is a 19.5km proposed highway on Penang island which would see at least four tunnels drilled and blasted through the spine of the island, the Penang Hill range.

At the PIL 1 town hall meeting last night, Ismail said concerns raised about the tunnel going through granitic fault lines in the range are likely a non-issue since the faults are “non-active”.

He said trial blasts would be carried out to measure the vibration and air contaminants. He said once okay, the blasting will be intermittent in nature and would not be felt by residents.

Ismail also clarified that for the 10km length of the tunnels, a total of 4,000kg of emulite (a type of explosive) would be used. He said the blasts would be carried out section by section.

He said an earth dam nearby would also not be affected as it was far away and the vibrations would be very minimal.

Environmental consulting firm Wiranda (M) Sdn Bhd director Mohammad Ismail Yaziz.

Ismail said the explosives would be used with permits from the police.

“A ventilation system will suck all the dirt to a dust collector. The reports from the dust collector would be sent to the Department of Environment,” he said.

On a different note, Ismail said sedimentation and erosion near the river mouth of Sungai Keluang at the Free Industrial Zone is likely to occur as a result of the highway alignment along the river.

He said this problem can be easily mitigated through a detailed hydraulic study.

“On the concerns of the alignment going through Youth Park (a popular jogging and recreational park), a cable-stayed bridge with two pillars will be erected to minimise the impact on the park as much as possible,” he said.

As for interviews with the people affected along the highway, Ismail said 20 focus groups were held since 2016, with 58% of respondents agreeing with the PIL 1 project.

At yesterday’s town hall session, more than 800 people attended, with more than 30 people posing questions to experts on the floor over concerns of safety.

Penang Forum’s Kam Suan Pheng had first highlighted the concerns over the tunnel crossing through fault lines, cautioning that it may trigger a collapse, as highlighted by the environmental impact assessment itself.

The soil scientist had said it could cause an earth dam nearby to collapse and spill 2.5 million cubic metres of water into a heavily populated valley below.

This was denied by the project’s proponents, saying her claims were exaggerated as the tunnels “would be far away” from the dam.

The Forum continues to disagree, saying such concerns were real, as highlighted by the EIA.