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KUALA LUMPUR, July 23 — The Penang state government cannot implement the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project until the environmental management plan (EMP) has been approved by the Department of Environment (DoE), Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said.
The environment and water minister said this in Parliament when answering Che Alias Hamid (PAS-Kemaman) who asked the government to state the strategic measures to cancel the project in Pulau Pinang that he said would drastically harm the environment.
“The ministry viewed all development projects seriously, in particular those subjected to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regulation as a requirement under Section 34A of the Environmental Quality Act.
“Therefore the project mover cannot undertake any form of construction on site until the EMP report is approved by the DoE whereby the EMP formed one of the 72 main conditions imposed in the approval of the EIA report,” Tuan Ibrahim told the Dewan Rakyat.
The minister said the government took note of various objections and demonstrations held against the project including memorandums to cancel the project over concerns of permanent environmental damage as well as affecting the livelihood of fishermen in the region.
“There are concerns that the PSR project will cause permanent damage and residual impact to the mudflat ecosystem, fishing ground, turtle landings and part of the coral reefs on Pulau Rimau which is an important ecosystem for fishery resources,” he said.
The 17-square kilometre PSR project involves the development of three artificial islands of about 1,700-acres at waters off Permatang Damar Laut, near Bayan Lepas.
It is being developed to finance various infrastructure projects under the Penang Transport Master Plan worth RM46 billion.
In a supplementary question by Che Alias on whether the government will impose a temporary stop-work order on the project until all the conditions imposed in the approval of the EIA report is fulfilled, Tuan Ibrahim clarified that the project has yet to begin and may not commence until further notice.
“I would like to clarify that there is no postponement of the project because the project has not obtained (the necessary) approval and therefore yet to commence,” he replied.
Tuan Ibrahim also assured that the ministry will study the EMP professionally but remarked that the ministry, entrusted with environmental conservation, must also focus on the long-term environmental impact of the project
“Regardless of what will take place, we must take into account all the sectors involved in a project this scale. The impact is huge if you consider the entirety of the project’s area.
“I admit that the project does have the economic and employment potential but what is clear is that the government will look into the EMP transparently, fairly and professionally,” he said in a reply to a supplementary question posed by Wong Hon Wai (PH-Bukit Bendera).
Last month, Environment and Water deputy minister Datuk Dr Ahmad Masrizal Muhammad said the Penang state government will be given a chance to implement the PSR project despite objections from several quarters.
However, the Penang state government must comply with all the conditions and stipulations set out in the EIA to proceed.