GEORGE TOWN: The Penang government today said a 650ha reclamation project along the Butterworth shore was approved by the Barisan Nasional-led state government in the 1990s and there is no way to cancel it.
State executive councillor Phee Boon Poh said if the state were to cancel it, it would incur huge penalties as the agreement was signed 20 years ago.
“There are some people saying we have approved this project. We want them to get their facts straight,” he said at a press conference in Komtar today.
Yesterday, a group of inshore fishermen in Butterworth called on the state government to cancel the reclamation project as it would harm the environment and affect their catch.
The reclamation involves widening the Butterworth shoreline from Telok Ayer Tawar in the north to the container terminal in the south. It will be 8km long and 854m wide.
“I have been personally against the project, even at the time I was state opposition leader in 2004.
“But to say we (the Pakatan Harapan government) allowed this reclamation project to be carried out is completely wrong,” he said.
Phee said since nothing could be done as the agreement was signed more than 20 years ago, the Penang government last year signed a separate agreement with the company doing the reclamation to give up more land to the state.
He said only 12.9ha was to be surrendered to the Penang government under the 1999 agreement, but under a supplementary agreement signed last year, 90.31ha would be surrendered.
“This is nearly 600% more than what was originally offered,” he said.
Phee said while the reclamation project had yet to obtain environmental impact assessment approval, the state government had insisted that just a strip of island be reclaimed, as opposed to an extension of the Butterworth shoreline
He said this would save Pantai Bersih, a famed beach in Butterworth which gives a panoramic view of George Town’s city centre.
“We told them we would rather have water passing instead of a large tract of land created right from the shore. This is to save our beautiful Pantai Bersih from being lost.
“Over 10,000 people frequent the beach over the weekends and we do not want to lose our only beach on the mainland,” he said.
Regarding claims by the Butterworth fishermen that compensation and other promises had yet to be fulfilled, Phee said the state government would look into the issue.
“As far as we know, they are owed a balance of RM2,500 and a fishermen’s pondok at Bagan Belat.”
The reclamation project was supposed to start in 1999 but the plan did not take off due to “uncertainties” at that time.
On June 16, 1999, Rayston Consortium (Butterworth) Sdn Bhd was given the right to relocate 1,000 squatters along the path of the Butterworth Outer Ring Road (BORR), a 14km tolled expressway built by the federal government between 2003 and 2006.
RCSB was also part of the consortium that built BORR, along with Etika Gemilang (Butterworth) Sdn Bhd. Part of BORR, too, is built on reclaimed land.
RCSB had said the reclamation would cost RM2 billion and that the project would take six years to be completed once approval was given.