Penang chasing April nod for three-island reclamation project

Penang Chief Minister  Chow Kon Yeow speaks at a seminar in George Town February 19, 2019. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow speaks at a seminar in George Town February 19, 2019. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Feb 19 — Penang state exco Jagdeep Singh Deo is pushing for the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project to be tabled at the National Physical Planning Council (NPPC) this April.

Penang has repeatedly submitted applications for the project over the few years, but he said these never reached the NPPC stage.

“I have seen projects by other states that were approved by the NPPC even though those states do not have complete documentations or did not fulfil all requirements for approval,” he claimed in his speech during a seminar on social impact assessment (SIA).

Jagdeep asserted that the town and country planning department (PLANMalaysia) kept rejecting the applications by insisting they did not meet requirement.

This time, he said Penang has accumulated nearly all the needed documents save for a fisheries impact assessment that is nearing completion. It even prepared a social impact assessment for the project.

“So, we are now working very hard to make sure that the PSR project is finally tabled at the NPPC for approval this April,” he said, adding that he has also brought this up with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The PSR is a reclamation project to create three islands covering 1,821 hectares and needed to fund the RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).

Jagdeep has said the three islands are also needed to “future-proof” the land-scarce state.

Reclamation could increase Penang’s land bank, he argued when noting this solution was implemented in many island states in other countries in the world.

Later, at a press conference, PLANMalaysia director general Datuk Rokibah Abdul Latif said the PSR was not tabled as the Penang state structure plan was still not in place.

“Our advice to the state is to get the structure plan in place first and then only to include in their proposed project,” she said.

Responding immediately, Jagdeep said the draft Penang Structure Plan 2030 (PSP) is in its final stages and nearing gazettement.

“Even if it is not yet gazetted, we can inform the NPPC and explain the final stages of our PSP and they can still consider the PSR,”he said.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow echoed Jagdeep’s remarks about the difficulty in gaining approval for the PSR, and said the state will persevere as it was convinced of the project.

He also said his administration was open to advice and criticism, noting that such massive undertakings could often be improved.

Chow then said Penang should emulate New Zealand that required development to also pass the “welfare of the people test” apart from the environmental and social impact assessments, adding that the Penang 2030 vision must be able to stand the test of the welfare of the people.

“If this project does not improve the welfare of the people, then maybe we have to rethink it,” he said.