GEORGE TOWN, May 15 — The Penang government’s insistence on reclaiming land to create three artificial islands will only sideline the poor and destroy the environment, the state’s sole PAS assemblyman said today.
Penaga assemblyman Yusni Mat Piah said the most possible outcome from the proposed Penang South Reclamation (PSR) is the eviction of low-income Penangites from the island state on top of disrupting the balance of nature.
“The public is opposed to the PSR because of the high risks and negative impact it involves as compared to the benefits it might bring,” he said in a statement.
Yusni pointed out the high costs involved for each component of the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP), highlighting the cost of RM80 per sq ft to reclaim land off the coast of the Penang island.
“The cost of reclaiming land is too high, higher than the costs of reclamation in Melaka and Johor,” he claimed.
He said the state’s determination to go ahead with the PSR was “suspicious” especially when the state administration had failed to be transparent in many aspects on the project.
“The state has failed to provide satisfactory explanations and clarifications on the project, not only in the media, but also at the recent state legislative assembly,” he said.
He accused Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow of merely “reading a script that was prepared behind-the-scene” regarding the project.
He said Deputy Chief Minister II P. Ramasamy had “bounced back and forth” in his emotional stance on the project.
“The timeframe for the display of the Environmental Impact Assessment report for public feedback was too short to allow anyone to submit proper feedback on the project,” he said.
Yusni, who is also Penang PAS Information chief, said Pan Island Link 1 (PIL1) is set to be the most expensive highway in Malaysia at a cost of RM500 million per km as compared to the Kinrara-Damansara Expressway which costs about RM161 million.
Yusni said the proposed Light Rail Transit (LRT) project, which is another component under the PTMP, will cost about RM9 billion to build while the operation costs will be about RM170 million per year.
“The estimated 42 million passengers per year, or 116,000 per day, is far higher than the Ampang LRT Ampang — the busiest in Kuala Lumpur — which just reached 61 million users after 19 years,” he said.
He said the PTMP will be a waste of resources as there was no accurate projection of the traffic flow on the island and the mega projects will not solve traffic problems in the island.
“On the other hand, it will exacerbate the pressure on the residents to face traffic jams,” he said.
He questioned the state’s financial prudence in planning out this massive project.
He said the timeline for the expenditure cash flow is inconsistent with the proposed revenue stream to finance the project.
“The cost for construction is immediate expenditure whereas the revenue from the sale of highly priced lands is on a long term basis so if the yield is less, the property market will be badly affected due to property overhang,” he said.
He said the fact that the state had applied for a RM1 billion bridging loan from the federal government showed the state’s financial incompetence.
“The loan is not enough to start the first phase of the project which costs RM17 billion. What if the loan is not approved by the federal government?” he said.
He said this obviously proves the financial incompetency of the parties involved in the project.
Penang PAS joined several civil society groups in opposing the proposed PSR, which is the funding module for the RM46 billion PTMP. Both the PIL1 and LRT projects are part of the ambitious PTMP.
The PSR project will see the creation of three islands covering 4,500 acres of land which the state will then sell to raise funds for the implementation of the PTMP.