Journey to complete 3 islands reclamation project will be ‘tedious’, says Penang CM

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow shows the list of the 72 conditions imposed by the Department of Environment for the Penang South Reclamation project.

GEORGE TOWN: Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow today said the journey to complete the three islands reclamation project is going to be a “tedious” one, owing to the list of 72 conditions imposed by the Department of Environment (DoE) and other safeguards.

Chow said part of the 72 conditions will be included in a “Penang Offset Master Plan”, believed to be the first of its kind, to reduce potential environmental impact as a result of the reclamation.

The master plan will include measures to protect the coasts, sea and fisheries, with the placement of artificial reefs, planting of mangrove saplings, and funding for the study of turtles and coral reefs.

At a press conference, Chow said the master plan will be drawn up with the cooperation of relevant agencies.

He said 56 of the 72 conditions are the “typical ones” issued by the DoE for most projects, including compliance, air and water quality and mitigation measures.

The remainder of the conditions will involve the drawing up of an Environment Management Plan (EMP), which is needed before the project can physically take off.

Two options to mine sand

SRS Consortium Sdn Bhd project director Szeto Wai Loong.

According to project delivery partner SRS Consortium Sdn Bhd, a separate Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on sand mining will be required in addition to the EMP.

Its project director, Szeto Wai Loong, said two options are being considered to mine sand – from the waters of Port Klang, Selangor, or the coast of Perak.

Szeto, who was also present at the press conference, said the mining will not affect coastal fishing activity as it will be 15 nautical miles from the shore. It will also have minimal effect on trawler fishing activities.

He said the mining is also not a state matter as it falls under the purview of the federal Directorate General of Land and Mines (JKPTG).

He said while the reclamation works are quite “straight forward”, the project, known as Penang South Reclamation (PSR), will be the “most complex” in its terms and conditions.

Approval did not come easy

Asked how DoE’s initial approval for the PSR project came so quickly, Szeto said in reality, it had been a work in progress for the past two years.

He said that when the consortium submitted its plans in 2017, there was no need for fisheries and social impact assessments.

However, the assessments were suddenly made a requirement mid-way and hence, their first EIA application was rejected over concerns on fisheries. A new EIA was filed late last year, with approval given recently.

“People ask why it was approved so fast. But we have been working with them (DoE), point by point, up to the final submission.

“The Environmental Management Plan will take six to nine months to complete and will be our guide,” he said.

The project to reclaim the three islands will be spread over 17 sq km, with the islands covering 9.3, 4.45 and 3.23 sq km, respectively. The reclamation will be carried out off the coast of Permatang Damar Laut, near Bayan Lepas.

The reclaimed land will belong to the Penang government but will be auctioned off to the highest bidders to finance the RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (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.

The PTMP will be pursued by SRS Consortium Sdn Bhd, a joint venture between Gamuda Bhd and Penang real estate development firms Loh Phoy Yen Holdings Sdn Bhd and Ideal Property Development Sdn Bhd.