52 groups protest against 3 islands project

A group of fishermen protesting at Kampung Nelayan, near Teluk Kumbar, where one of the three islands will be created.

GEORGE TOWN: A coalition of 52 Malay-interest groups has written a protest note to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, asking him to cancel the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project.

The Consumers’ Association of Penang and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) have also criticised the Department of Environment (DoE) for approving the three-island reclamation project, saying the regulator had ignored serious concerns put forward by them.

The 52 groups, under the umbrella of the Penang Malay Congress, wrote to Mahathir on June 30, giving 20 reasons why the project should be scrapped.

In a seven-page letter, made available to the media, it said the 3.2 million tonnes of carbon emissions from the reclamation project alone should be of serious concern to the government.

The groups also claimed that the proponents of the project were not transparent about their plans, saying the 20 volumes containing data of the project were not allowed to be taken out for discussion.

“Penang, which is blessed with hills, seas and the Unesco-listed George Town, is now at a crossroads.

“What do we envision for Penang now? Roads dominated by cars, and a messy concrete jungle which consumes our hills and seas?

Penang Malay Congress president Mohd Yussof Latiff.

“Or do we want a smart and green island with fewer cars and better connectivity?

“We hope YAB Tun would seriously and fairly look at our memorandum,” said congress president Mohd Yussof Latiff.

CAP and SAM, meanwhile, said the approval by DoE was “inexplicable and unjustified”, given the flaws and shortcomings in the environmental impact assessment of PSR.

Earlier today, the state government revealed the DoE had given the approval to start the reclamation project with 72 conditions.

The three islands, covering a total 1,700ha, would be reclaimed and later sold to interested parties to finance the state’s RM46 billion transport master plan (PTMP).

CAP and SAM said the state’s repeated claims that there was a shortage of land, and hence a need to reclaim land, did not hold water, as the same amount of land was readily available in Seberang Perai.

In a joint statement, they said some of the other concerns raised with the DoE included the projected population on the islands, the impact on fisheries and the impact on the Olive Ridley turtle unique to Penang.

It also noted the lack of studies on the impact of sand mining, where sand would be extracted from the waters in Perak to reclaim the three islands.

“We had called for the EIA approval not to be given, due to the fundamental concerns that we had raised. We are most dismayed that despite this, approval has been given.

“We are alarmed that our comments and that of other civil society groups, including members of the public, have been pushed aside by the DoE.”

CAP acting president Mohideen Abdul Kader and SAM president Meenakshi Raman said the 72 conditions given by the DoE must also be made public without delay.

The project to reclaim the three islands,  covering 9.3, 4.45 and 3.23 sq km, will be reclaimed off the coast of Permatang Damar Laut, near Bayan Lepas, in the south.

The reclaimed land will belong to the Penang government but will be auctioned off to the highest bidders to finance the PTMP.

The PTMP envisions a series of highways, light rail transit lines and other modes of transport to be built over the next 20 to 30 years.