Penang Forum demands to see new EIA report for PIL 1

Penang Forum’s Lim Mah Hui explaining why PIL 1 should be scrapped at a town hall meeting last year.

GEORGE TOWN: A member of the Penang Forum has asked the Penang government to give civic organisations access to the latest environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for the Pan Island Link 1 (PIL 1) highway.

Soil scientist Kam Suan Pheng told FMT it was difficult for Penang Forum and other concerned groups to make sense of the conditions imposed on the project if they couldn’t study the EIA report that made those conditions necessary.

She was referring to the report that Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow spoke of last week when he announced that the Department of Environment (DoE) had approved the project provided that 56 conditions are followed.

Kam said civic groups needed to know the nature of revisions made to the initial EIA report that was shown to the public last year.

Penang Forum’s Kam Suan Pheng talking about PIL 1 at a forum in USM last year.

“The conditional approval by the DoE is based on a new EIA,” she noted. “It is difficult to study the conditions based on a report we have not seen.”

FMT has contacted Chow for his response and is waiting for a reply.

In giving the 56 conditions, DoE said these were based on a Jan 2 EIA submission to it.

Last year, Penang Forum gave a 39-page report to DoE that said the initial EIA did not meet standards set under the law. It urged the department to reject the report.

It mentioned, among other things, a red flag waved in that report. This indicated that PIL 1 would serve its purpose only for a limited period. The report said the highway would experience traffic congestion five to seven years after its scheduled completion.

Penang Forum then recommended the scrapping of PIL 1 and called for an independent technical panel to go through the EIA report without interference by the contractors and proponents of the project.

Penang Forum’s report to the DoE last year.

The report was studied by Penang Forum’s panel of 31 professionals, most of whom found weaknesses in it that they said were glaring.

The Penang government defended the project, saying it would be professionally undertaken. It also claimed that 80% of Penang residents, whom it referred to as the “silent majority”, supported it.

Chow said then that all the concerns raised by civil society would be addressed once the federal government had given the project its approval.

The 19.5km six-lane highway will link Gurney Drive in the northeast of the island to the second Penang bridge in the south. It will go through the hills of Air Itam, Paya Terubong and Sungai Ara.

It will allow motorists to get to the airport from Gurney Drive in 15 minutes.

The highway, priced at RM7.5 billion when proposed, has been widely criticised by environmentalists who said it could destroy the island’s sensitive ecosystem.

The project will be financed through the auction of three reclaimed islands south of Penang island.