What is Penang without her roadside trees? — SM Mohamed Idris

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FEBRUARY 4 — What is Penang without her green? What is Green Lane without the Green? Penang is slowly losing its green as more concrete jungles are taking over for development and paving the way for more vehicles.

Thus, the Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) is very disappointed to learn that the City Council of Penang Island (MBPP) will be uprooting several trees at Jalan Masjid Negeri, along the stretch across the road from the McDonald’s outlet. This is done to make way for another car lane, giving priority to vehicles over our trees and environment.

This is not the first of this odious act. MBPP had already removed more than 60 trees along the 700-metre stretch of road from the Jalan Udini roundabout to the Shell petrol station on Jalan Masjid Negeri back in 2012. We had raised our objections then but to no avail. What is the fate of the trees that were transplanted then?

One issue to be seriously considered by MBPP is whether the previous road widening efforts managed to eliminate traffic congestion that we are facing today especially along Jalan Masjid Negeri? If it is now clear that even doubling the road width does not resolve the problem, why are the authorities now embarking on another bout of road widening, this time of a lesser dimension but with huge costs to the roadside trees?

File picture showing people holding posters during a CAP protest in Jalan Masjid Negeri against the removal of roadside trees in Penang. — Photo courtesy of S.M. Mohamed Idris
File picture showing people holding posters during a CAP protest in Jalan Masjid Negeri against the removal of roadside trees in Penang. — Photo courtesy of S.M. Mohamed Idris

CAP objects to the removal of our roadside trees. The beauty of some of Penang’s roads is attributed to its tree-lined roads. The trees along Jalan Masjid Negeri add charm to the neighbourhood and also provide important benefits such as the provision of shade, the buffering of noise, improve the microclimate of the area and function as natural purifier of air pollution.  When the trees are gone, we lose all these essentialities they provide us.

As for the traffic problem, thus far, the authorities have only paid attention to the supply side of the traffic equation and not the demand side. That is, unless the authorities have the political will to decrease the usage of private vehicles through higher parking charges and imposition of fees for road usage particularly during peak hours, merely widening roads is a futile exercise.  The authorities must look for holistic long-term solutions and not short-term solutions.

CAP wants an assurance from the State Government and MBPP that the trees along this stretch of Jalan Masjid Negeri will be spared.  The roadside trees of Penang are our heritage which must be conserved in situ. Urban trees are a public good that must be cherished and not become victims of development.

* S.M. Mohamed Idris is the president of Consumers’ Association of Penang.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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