PETALING JAYA: Environmental group Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) has urged the government to get cracking on mitigation works to rectify the impact of the Melaka Gateway project on the state’s coastlines.
SAM president Meenakshi Raman said the Melaka government must focus on protecting the well-being of its people, as it had allowed the RM43 billion project to be carried out in the first place.
“It is unfair for the public to pay the price for affecting the coastal ecosystem,” she said.
“The Department of Environment (DoE) and the Drainage and Irrigation Department play a critical role in ensuring rectification measures, so water can flow from the river and the coast, and further flash floods can be prevented.”
The Portuguese settlement in Ujong Pasir had previously complained of stagnant pools of polluted water, frequent flash floods and heavier siltation in the area as a result of three new islands being developed under the project.
Meenakshi said dredging was not the solution to this issue, as digging up more sand only posed environmentally damaging effects and required an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to be conducted.
She said most reclamation projects would have already conducted an EIA before works began. Part of this, she said, involved the necessary steps to take following the halting of a project, all approved by the DoE.
“Clearly, there was an approval, so now they must look into the environmental management plan and its considerations on project abandonment. They must immediately take care of the river clogging and coastal erosion that has occurred.”
Although these would only be temporary measures, Meenakshi said, it was important to address the livelihoods of people living along the coastline, particularly fishermen, who were always the first to suffer from reclamation projects.
Kota Melaka MP Khoo Poay Tiong said the termination of the Melaka Gateway project did not come as a surprise to many, but its significant damage upon the state was unfortunate.
“The impact on the environment, especially the seafront, is huge and irrevocable,” he told FMT. “We must realise that all these bad developments have a long-term impact on the lives of the people and our economy.”
Khoo said the negative effects were already showing, with the 2019 Household Income Survey reporting an increase in Melaka’s absolute poverty, from 2.6% in 2016 to 3.9% last year.
A Melaka-based developer, who asked to remain anonymous, agreed, saying Melaka was oversaturated with development projects that rarely met local demands.
Beyond large-scale projects such as the Melaka Gateway, the developer said there was an oversupply of condominiums and shopping complexes, which had remained mostly empty for the last decade.
“The total population in Melaka is less than a million, how can we sustain all these real estate projects? Many development works were not properly looked into and this has now created a lot of infrastructure problems,” the developer said.
Khoo suggested for the state to invest in more sustainable development focusing on improving the environment and people’s well-being.
This included building more parks, channelling more funds into the agricultural sector, and landing investments in the manufacturing sector that would create more jobs.
He said the state government should at least meet with the project developer, adding that it was the “basic role of any government to listen and discuss with stakeholders, and not to make unilateral decisions”.
Earlier this month, it was reported that the Melaka government had terminated a land reclamation agreement with property developer KAJ Development Sdn Bhd, as it had expired on Oct 3.
The Melaka Gateway project was said to include an international cruise terminal large enough to accommodate four cruise ships at the same time. Other facilities would have included a marina for yachts, luxury condominiums, tourist eco-parks and theme parks.
A new deep-sea port was also to be built with the help of three Chinese companies, according to news reports.