Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Review needed for Langkawi reclamation project

The priority should not be for huge high-end development that will only benefit a few and keep their pockets happy.

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On May 31, 2018, the late Sarawak developer Ting Peh Khiing, famous for the Bakun Dam project, announced that he would be launching a RM30 billion development project to be built on reclaimed land off the west side of Langkawi island on June 1, 2018. Called the Langkawi New City project, it would be located on 81 hectares of reclaimed land.

The proposed project was envisioned to be a high-end Dubai-style development with 30,000 high-end condominium units, commercial centres, and berthing facilities for ocean liners and yachts, among others. According to a media report, Ting said: “This project is bound to be the biggest ever development of its kind in the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia.” In the same report, Ting was also reported to have said that the environmental impact assessment had already been conducted.

However, the very next day, on June 1, 2018, several news articles stated that then-prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad (under the newly elected Pakatan Harapan) would not be officiating the launch and that then-chief minister of Kedah Mukhriz Mahathir had said that the state government had yet to receive any proposals for the project, or any deposit paid to the state by Ting.

Fortunately for all, this project never took off after the grand announcement.

Fast forward 2.5 years later, we now hear that the Kedah government has signed a RM40 billion joint-venture agreement with the Kuala Lumpur-based Widad Business Group Sdn Bhd (WBG) to reclaim an area off the island of Langkawi where 90% of the total 1,979 acres would be an artificial island. It would be for high-end development including five- and six-star hotel resorts, a golf course next to the Marina Yacht Club, offices, shopping complexes, hospitals, universities and luxury homes. The project would take 15 to 20 years to complete.

Similar to what was proposed by Ting, this project would also be on the west of Langkawi and near the airport in Padang Mat Sirat, but it seems that it would be a whole lot bigger, almost nine times more compared to what was originally proposed, and about RM10 billion more too. According to a recent media report quoting Sanusi Md Nor, the chief minister of Kedah, WBG has paid up “millions” (the actual amount has not been disclosed) in commitment fee to the state to start this project.

We are shocked by the Kedah government’s announcement in wanting to embark on such a large-scale reclamation project when it is blessed with vast amounts of land. A similar idea for a project like this was already shelved in 2018 by the previous state government right after it was launched by Ting. Why go down the same path again?

This is a massive project that has huge financial implications which the state has to carefully consider, especially during this pandemic time when the national and world economy is in trouble and amid a downturn in the tourism industry for years to come. Why build a playground for the rich when the scarce financial resources can be better used to meet the basic sustainable development needs of our people?

The priority is not for huge high-end development that will only benefit a few and keep their pockets happy. It appears that not much thought has been given to the environmental impacts of such a project which would destroy the beautiful and natural environment of Langkawi and is against the interest and welfare of ordinary people like the fisherfolk who will be affected in the long term.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia continues to criticise the state government for proposing prior devastating projects like exploring for rare earth elements, large-scale logging and now this, reclamation.

We do not deny that investments are important for the state but they should be sound investments for socially useful projects, beneficial to all, especially the poor, and not environmentally destructive.

It was not too long ago that the Kedah chief minister stood with the fisherfolk of Penang and protested against the Penang South Reclamation project, involving another 4,500 acres of massive reclamation in a very environmentally sensitive area.

Surely what is not good for Penang is also not good for Kedah. We hope that he has not forgotten this and appeal to him to review and scrap this unsound venture.

Meenakshi Raman is president of Sahabat Alam Malaysia.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.

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