GEORGE TOWN: Two non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are upset by Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow’s announcement that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Pan-Island Link (PIL) has been approved by the Department of Environment (DoE) with 56 conditions.
Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) president S.M. Mohamed Idris said the two organisations were shocked that the DoE had approved the EIA despite negative public feedback.
“We were among many thousands of Penangites and groups which had voiced our deep concerns over the EIA, which had many flaws.
“We totally disagree with the chief minister, who claimed that the EIA approval marks a milestone in addressing traffic woes in Penang. The PIL is not a long-term solution to our traffic problems,” he said in an immediate response to Chow’s announcement at a press conference earlier.
Idris said the EIA report claimed that there would be a dramatic reduction in travel time but ignored its own traffic analysis that full capacity would be reached by 2030.
“To spend RM8 billion for this road is a colossal waste of public resources that is not a long-term solution for our traffic woes.
“Moreover, we had also pointed out that the EIA report wrongly claimed that no heritage structures would be affected.
“However, this is not true as the Por Tay Buddhist School, St. Nicholas Home, Penang Chinese Girls’ High School, Shree Muniswarar temple, the iconic Penang Hill railway, Kek Lok Si temple and the Air Itam dam — all over 50 years old with cultural and historical significance — will be adversely affected by the PIL,” he said.
Idris also noted that the PIL, which is an elevated six-lane highway, would completely ruin the island’s charm as it would be an eyesore due to its adverse visual impact when compared with green parks and forested hills.
“The highway plans to canalise and straighten rivers, when globally, cities are trying to restore natural river flows. In addition, the EIA report also did not address the heavy usage of two popular recreational parks, Youth Park and Taman Jajar, (which are located within) the route of the elevated highway.
“Recreational users, including children, will be subjected to noise levels exceeding 75dB, (when the recommended maximum is 60dB) and increased air pollutants.
“No amount of mitigation measures will address how the character of the island will be changed with such an elevated highway, which will certainly be very ugly,” he stressed.
Idris noted the NGOs were shocked that the Penang government had refused to listen to a large section of the Penang public which had studied the EIA and who had given informed feedback and comments.
He said they reiterated their call for the state government not to proceed with the PIL despite the conditional EIA approval from the DoE.
He also demanded that the state government make public the 56 conditions imposed by the DoE.
Meanwhile, Tanjung Bungah Residents Association (TBRA) chairman Meenakshi Raman also expressed shock that the DoE had approved the EIA for PIL despite the major shortcomings the association had pointed out in its feedback.
“The chief minister claims the approval is a major milestone for addressing the traffic problem but we think otherwise as building more roads does not solve traffic problems in the long run.
Chow told newsmen earlier that the DoE had granted conditional approval for the EIA report of the proposed PIL 1, a component under the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).
The approval was conveyed to the Penang government via a letter dated April 10.
It stated that after detailed scrutiny, review and deliberation at the EIA technical review committee, it found the EIA report fulfilled requirements of Section 34A (2) of the Environment Quality Act 1974.