Penang groups raise concern over tunnel cutting through hills

Civil society groups in Penang are beginning to express misgivings over the proposed 19.5km Pan Island Link 1 (PIL 1), two weeks after the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Second Schedule Report was put on public display. — Picture by KE Ooi
Civil society groups in Penang are beginning to express misgivings over the proposed 19.5km Pan Island Link 1 (PIL 1), two weeks after the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Second Schedule Report was put on public display. — Picture by KE Ooi

GEORGE TOWN, July 23 — Civil society groups in Penang are beginning to express misgivings over the proposed 19.5km Pan Island Link 1 (PIL 1), two weeks after the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Second Schedule Report was put on public display.

The groups want the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP), of which the PIL 1 is a component, to be reviewed due to the possible environmental damage and high costs.

The Penang Consumers Association (CAP) reiterated its call for a comprehensive review of the entire PTMP.

“The recent release of the Environmental Impact Assessment for the PIL shows that many public amenities, including the Youth Park, schools, temples, and sensitive areas such as Penang Hill and other hills will be seriously affected,” CAP president SM Mohamed Idris said in a statement today.

He claimed local communities were now realising that the PMTP would be significantly detrimental to their way of life as well as their surroundings.

The state government should consequently shelve the PMTP until it undertakes a comprehensive review of the project and its implications, he added.

He also expressed his shock at the state government’s proposal to apply for a RM1 billion soft loan from the federal government to start work on PIL 1 and LRT projects under the PTMP.

“If this loan goes through, it may put at risk the financial situation of the state of Penang.

“There are large economic and environmental risks associated with the PTMP and it is doubtful that some key projects linked to the plan can generate revenue to pay for themselves,” he said.

Aliran member Anil Netto, in his blog, warned that “thousands of tonnes of explosives (emulite) will be used to blast through the slopes of Penang Hill to build these tunnels which are part of the exorbitant RM8 billion six-lane highway, courtesy of SRS Consortium’s mega transport shopping spree.”

He was referring to PIL 1 that will have a 10km stretch of tunnel that cuts through hills in Penang to connect Gurney Drive to the Second Penang Bridge.

“The 10km of tunnels along the hilly central spine of Penang Island will be constructed using the ‘drill and blast’ method,” Anil, who is also active in Penang Forum, claimed in his blog.

He demanded that the state government reveal how much explosives will be used for the six-lane highway.

Anil noted that while the EIA stated that 717kg of emulite would be used, it neglected to mention if this was per detonation or per cubic metre.

Another Penang Forum member, Lim Mah Hui, together with Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) associate professor in technology cluster-transport system Ahmad Hilmy, issued the first of a six-part series of articles to highlight why the PTMP should be reviewed.

“The present proposed PTMP is too car-centric and focused on mega infrastructure projects, especially building highways and a tunnel, that are unlikely to solve the mobility and transport problems in Penang,” they said in their first statement.

They said even some of the public transport projects like the proposed LRT from George Town to the airport are questionable in terms of financial sustainability.

“The state should consider other more sustainable forms of transportation that are less costly and more environmentally friendly,” they said.

The proposed PIL 1, estimated to cost RM7.5 billion, will be implemented under the first phase the massive RM46 billion PTMP.

The public may view the EIA at eight locations in Penang, at the DOE office in Putrajaya and the national library in Kuala Lumpur.

The EIA report is also accessible online via the doe.gov.my, penang.gov.my, pgmasterplan.penang.gov.my and wirandamsdnbhd.com websites.

The public may also submit feedback and comments to the Department of Environment before August 24.

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