GEORGE TOWN, Aug 1 — Penang Development Corporation (PDC) today said the Prangin Bypass was built to divert drain water from the canal as part of the S10 Flood Mitigation Project for the inner city.
PDC Senior Deputy General Manager Datuk Yeoh Lean Huat said the diversion was a big part of the flood mitigation to allow for better water flow out to the sea especially during heavy bouts of rain.
“The diversion is to discharge the water surface runoff and drainage water into the sea,” he explained during a press conference to explain the reasons for the diversion.
This was following criticisms on social media that the state government had misrepresented the cleaning up of the Prangin Canal by diverting the drain water elsewhere.
He pointed out that water surface runoff, drain water and discharge from septic tanks and kitchens from 278 acres around George Town all flowed into the Prangin Channel Ditch previously.
“It functioned as a monsoon drain where discharges from all housing in the 278 acres, covering about 8,500 houses and buildings, flowed into it,” he said.
Yeoh said portions of the monsoon drain was already underground to collect storm water runoff from the 278 acres.
“When we built the parallel bypass, it connected to the existing underground drain that flowed to a treatment plant before it was released into the sea,” he said.
Yeoh said PDC did not want to destroy the historic Prangin Canal so the 220m stretch was restored, cleaned and preserved with a self-sustaining eco-system.
He said logically the newly restored canal were sealed so that water from the monsoon drain does not flow into it.
“We can’t break it apart to build a wider drain for the flood mitigation so instead we built a parallel wider drain for flood mitigation while maintaining the Prangin Canal due to its historic significance,” he said.
The original Prangin Canal was about 4.5 metre wide and 1.5 metre deep while the new bypass is between 9.1 metre and 5 metre wide and 2 metre deep.
The restored Prangin Canal can also act as an on-site water detention area which meant that water can flow into it during a heavy downpour.
Yeoh added that the diversion can be reversed if the need arise in the future.
“We do not have space to build a treatment plant at the upstream of the canal so for now, we have to divert the dirty drain water to the monsoon drain but as and when the upstream water become clean, we can remove the diversion and let the water go through both this canal and the bypass drain,” he said.
Meanwhile George Town World Heritage Inc (GTWHI) general manager Ang Ming Chee pointed out that Prangin Canal was no longer a river as there was no natural source of water.
She said back in 1881, the canal stretched 11.7km from the north to the east and even then, it was a canal.
She reiterated that the Prangin Bypass was completed in 2016 at a cost of RM7 million.
The rehabilitation of the Prangin Canal was completed in August last year while archaeology works at the canal was completed in March this year.
“We recovered 15,000 artefacts weighing one tonne from the canal and this can be used as an education and public awareness on the lifestyle of the past and also to tell them not to throw rubbish into the drain,” she said.
Thousands of glass items including soft drink bottles, pottery, coins and metal items were dug up from the canal.
“What did we hide? Well, we did not mention that we planted at least 177 new trees nor did we mention that a total 4,000 hours were spent throughout eight months of intensive sifting through the silt deposit from the canal,” she said.
The cleaning up of the Prangin Canal was part of the Sia Boey Rejuvenation Project to turn it into an archaeological park.
Earlier today, Penang Island City Council (MBPP) councillor Nicholas Theng also defended the Prangin Canal clean up and the Sia Boey Rejuvenation Project.
“The cleaning of the monsoon drain is done in conjunction with the S10 flood mitigation project that is currently ongoing,” he said in a statement.
He said MBPP has taken efforts to clean up all the sludge and waste in the storm drains that have not been thoroughly cleaned for the past 20 years due to limited access to the storm drain.
He said two access points to clean the monsoon drain have been created, done together with the diversion in Sia Boey so that the iconic place can be properly rejuvenated.
“MBPP now has access to clean up the storm drain and the monsoon drain cleaning process has been ongoing and is scheduled to complete soon,” he said.
He ticked off civil society group, Penang Forum for its criticisms against the Prangin Canal with claims that the state did not clean up the monsoon drain but only diverted it when it was not true.
“Penang Forum cannot claim that they do not have this information as I acquired it in my capacity as a councillor for MBPP, the same position that Dr Chee Heng Leng from Penang Forum currently occupies,” he said.