Impact study of Penang highway ignores public feedback, say NGOs

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow speaks to the press as he announces the approval of the EIA report on the Pan Island Link 1 (PIL1) during a press conference in George Town April 15, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow speaks to the press as he announces the approval of the EIA report on the Pan Island Link 1 (PIL1) during a press conference in George Town April 15, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, April 15 — The Penang government is ignoring public objections by pushing ahead with the RM7 billion Pan Island Link 1 (PIL1) that has gained regulatory approval, two non-governmental groups said today.

They also asserted that the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report the state submitted successfully for approval was questionable.

SM Mohamed Idris, who is president for both the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM), called it shocking that the Penang government allegedly ignored the views of local residents on the matter.

“We were among many thousands of Penangites and groups who had voiced our deep concerns over the EIA, which had many flaws,” he said in a statement released today in an immediate reaction to Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow’s announcement this morning that the EIA for PIL1 was approved.

He also expressed surprise over the Department of Environment’s (DoE) approval, insisting that public sentiment was largely against the project.

This morning, Chow said the DoE approved the EIA of the project on April 10 and that work on the highway may commence by the middle of next year.

He also said the EIA was approved with 56 conditions but did not elaborate.

Mohamed Idris demanded that Chow list all 56 conditions.

“Given the huge public outcry over the PIL1, it is imperative that the state government not hide the conditions for approval,” he said.

He reiterated his call to the state administration not to proceed with PIL1 despite the conditional approval of the EIA, maintaining that the highway will not address the state’s congestion issues.

He also argued that the EIA effectively ignored its own conclusion that traffic volume would exceed capacity by 2030.

He said spending around RM7 billion for the highway will be a “colossal waste of public resources” when it is not a long-term solution.

Mohamed Idris said they also pointed out that the EIA report had wrongly stated that heritage structures would not be affected by the project.

“This is not true as the Phor Tay Buddhist School, St Nicholas Home, Penang Chinese Girls’ High School, Shree Muniswarar Temple, the iconic Penang Hill railway, Kek Lok Si Temple and Air Itam Dam are all over 50 years old with cultural and historical significance and these will be adversely affected by the PIL1,” he said.

He added that the elevated six-lane highway will ruin the island’s charm and it will have an adverse visual impact on green parks and forested hills, further alleging the EIA report did not address the heavily-visited Youth Park and Taman Jajar that are along the highway alignment.

“Recreational users including children will be subjected to noise levels exceeding 75 dB, recommended maximum is 60 dB, and increased air pollutants,” he said.

He said any mitigation measure will not address how the character of the island will be changed and that the elevated highway will be “very ugly”.