With low birth rate, activist questions need for 3 islands in Penang

Lestari Khazanah Alam chief Zikrullah Ismail says it is ‘illogical’ to project a population of 2.3 million in Penang by 2030.

GEORGE TOWN: An activist today questioned a 2.3 million population forecast for Penang by 2030 to justify the need for the three islands reclamation project when the likelihood of reaching such a population is highly unlikely.

Environmental activist Zikrullah Ismail said with the recent disclosure that Penang’s fertility rate was 1.3 babies per woman – far lower than the national average of 2.1 required to replace an earlier generation – it would be impossible for the state to achieve such high numbers.

The state government expects a population of 2.3 million by 2030 in justifying the need for a light rail transit network, highways and the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project to be built at a total cost of RM46 billion.

The state had said the population of the three islands alone is expected to be about 367,000 once developed. As of last year, Penang’s population was at an estimated 1.77 million.

Speaking to FMT, Zikrullah said the projected 2.3 million population is “illogical” after Chief Statistician Uzir Mahidin disclosed Penang’s fertility rate has been on a steady decline since 2001.

“In reality, the three islands project will be an effort in futility,” the Lestari Khazanah Alam NGO chief said.

An artist’s impression of the three islands Penang South Reclamation project.

He also asked what kind of homes would be built on the islands and if they would be affordable to most Penangites.

He said those who could not afford the high prices in the state had resorted to buying homes on the mainland and commuted to work.

“They travel daily to work from far away because property prices are out of their reach. What is considered ‘affordable’ is not so for the B40 group.

“So, our question to the state is ‘who are these three islands going to be for, Penangites or rich foreigners?'”

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow had previously said the PSR was a long-term master plan development to be carried out in phases over 50 years and the projected population is based on an average future household size of 3.3 people in the three islands by 2030.

He said this was backed by studies by the Town and Country Planning Department.

The 17 sq km PSR project involves the development of three artificial islands on reclaimed land off Permatang Damar Laut, near Bayan Lepas.

It is being developed to finance various infrastructure projects under the Penang Transport Master Plan.