Approval for 3 islands project took 2 years, not 2 days, Chow insists

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow at Komtar.

GEORGE TOWN: Penang today rubbished claims that the South Reclamation (PSR) project was approved in just two days, saying it took two years to get the green light from Putrajaya.

“The Penang government and the project delivery partners of the PSR worked together and waited for two years for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approval,” Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said in a press conference at Komtar.

“To say just two days is inaccurate and baseless. If it was indeed two days, we would have welcomed it with open arms.”

The claim was made by a researcher who said the Department of Environment (DoE) took only two working days to approve the project’s second EIA which was rejected in 2018.

Chow said the researcher’s remarks gave the impression that the matter had received “special treatment”.

“We have vowed to follow the procedures and laws set,” he said.

“I hope they can be responsible with their remarks.”

He said the first EIA was submitted to the DoE on April 28, 2017. A public review of the EIA was held between May 24 and June 23, with feedback collated and sent to the DoE on Aug 15.

Chow said the DoE then asked for additional assessments on fisheries and the social impact of the project, as well as the advice of the National Physical Planning Council (MPFN). He said this took place between Oct 31, 2017, and March 29, 2019.

The Penang government’s two-year timeline of the project, released today.

He said while it was fulfilling the DoE’s request on Aug 2, 2018, the department said the EIA was not approved as it required the approval of “other agencies” as well.

On April 2, he said, a second EIA was submitted to the DoE with a public review from April 29 to May 28.

An updated EIA was sent to the department on June 20 which included feedback from the public review. On June 25, he said, the DoE approved the EIA.

At a talk by the Penang Forum on Monday, independent senior researcher in environmental and urban studies Evelyn Teh provided what she said was a timeline of the first and second EIA submissions.

Evelyn Teh’s timeline for the PSR’s first EIA approval. (Courtesy of Evelyn Teh)

She said the DoE had rejected the first EIA in May 2018 due to concerns over fisheries. The second EIA was sent to the department with a Fisheries Impact Assessment on June 19, she said, adding that it was approved on June 25.

Prior to the second submission, she said, an EIA technical review committee had met on May 29 while the public review was ongoing.

She said the last day for the public review was June 12, and that the review committee should have convened after the public review ended.

Evelyn Teh’s timeline of the PSR’s second EIA approval. (Courtesy of Evelyn Teh)

The PSR or three reclaimed islands project will cover nearly 17 sq km. The islands, measuring 9.3, 4.45 and 3.23 sq km, will be reclaimed 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 bidder to finance the RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).

The PTMP envisions a series of highways, LRT lines and other modes of transport to be built in the next 20 to 30 years. The Penang government had asked for a federal loan of RM1 billion to kickstart the project.

In April this year, the PSR was approved with an 18-point advisory by MPFN. The advisory was not obligatory, the state government had said.

The points included a policy banning the construction of condominiums priced at above RM1 million.