DoE slammed for okaying highway plan with bloopers

Khoo Salma (third from right, in white) with other Penang Forum members looking at a mock-up of the PIL 1 highway at an event in USM last year.

GEORGE TOWN: An official of the Penang Forum has questioned the professionalism of federal regulators who approved the environmental study report for a highway project that contained drawing errors.

Khoo Salma, a member of the civic group’s steering committee, said the Department of Environment (DoE) should have spotted the mistakes and asked for a fresh report.

On Tuesday, the Penang government said an “oversight” had been found in the drawing of berms included in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report of the proposed Pan Island Link 1 (PIL 1) highway.

This was after Khoo complained that the drawings showed more berms than the maximum of six allowed for each cut slope under Public Works Department (PWD) regulations. One of them showed 26, she pointed out.

During the construction of highways, these berms help to control erosion and sedimentation, especially on cut hills. PIL 1 will be built mainly on hillsides.

The state government statement said there was a likelihood that the artists had made drawing errors. It added that the design was preliminary and “not the actual design” for the highway.

It said the actual design could be made only after approval of the EIA report, which was submitted on April 10.

Khoo told FMT she was appalled that the parameters set out under PWD’s 2010 Guidelines for Slope Design were not adhered to strictly despite the aid of computers.

Five different instances spotted by Penang Forum where more than six berms were highlighted.

According to the guidelines, an untreated slope should have a berm two metres wide and no more than six metres high. There is a limit of six berms for any one section.

In the drawings for PIL 1, Khoo noted five instances of berms numbering more than six.

“Someone should check if the errors were drawings errors or survey errors,” she said.

“If the drawings are accurate and there are instances where a berm height of more than six metres is required, will DoE do the right thing and withdraw the approval?

“Any government officer who sees a non-compliant slope design should reject the application or demand an alternative design instead of approving it with conditions.

“This is not a landscape plan. This is something that will threaten the safety of road users.”

The six-lane PIL 1 is made up of 7.6km of elevated roads and 10.1km of roads tunnelled through the Penang Hill range.

The highway connects Gurney Drive in the northeast to the airport in the southeast and will be built at a cost of RM7.5 billion, cross-financed from the creation and auctioning of land from three reclaimed islands south of Penang Island.