The Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) today urged the Penang government to put a complete halt to reclamation south of the island, following the announcement that the Penang South Island (PSI) project would be scaled down by 49%.
Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said yesterday that the project would continue with the construction of just one of the three artificial islands planned in the waters off Permatang Damar Laut, near Bayan Lepas.
"Silicon Island (Island A), covering 2,300 acres, will be implemented in two phases within 10 to 15 years for reclamation work, while reclamation work for Island B, covering 1,400 acres and Island C (800 acres) will not proceed," he told a press conference in George Town.
But CAP president Mohideen Abdul Kader urged the state government against insisting on the reclamation, whether for one or three islands.
"Naming one island Silicon Island and holding the carrot of attracting tourists cannot be the answer to the question we have repeatedly asked: what is the need for the reclamation with its attendant negative ecological and social impacts?
"The prime minister has called for a review of the reclamation project. The primary consideration of the review will be whether the project is needed and beneficial for the people," he said.
"Don't jump the gun and call for the reclamation of one island. Get on with the review process, which should be undertaken by independent experts with input from civil society organisations. In the meantime, don’t commit the governments – state and federal – to any financial liability."
The PSI project had received objections from the fishing community and environmental groups in the state, which said it would damage the marine ecosystem in the area.
Green group Sahabat Alam Malaysia meanwhile said that a new environmental impact assessment (EIA) report should be carried out, given the change in development concept.
The original EIA green light for the project was given last month.
But SAM president Meenakshi Raman said a new EIA should be done as the project would now involve only one island.
"For example, there needs to be a new hydraulic and hydrology impact assessment which covers current flow, water level, wave conditions, sedimentation and erosion etc," she said.
"In addition, the shrimp migration study which was required to be done earlier under the EIA which was just approved is yet to be completed. This is a vital component to be assessed since the reclamation of Island A involves 2,300 acres, which is still very significant in terms of impacts on the marine life, shrimp migration, food security and so on."
In a statement, she said the statement of need for the project had also changed since the federal government was now providing the funds needed to address transportation issues in Penang.
Her remarks followed the announcement on May 6 that Putrajaya would set aside an additional allocation to help the Penang government expedite the proposed George Town-Bayan Lepas LRT project.
Mohideen in his statement cited this agreement, saying there was also enough land in Penang for economic development.
"So why the need for extensive reclamation?" he added.