Penang CM defends tree removals, says extra road needed to alleviate jams

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said solving the island’s traffic jams took priority over tree conservation. — Picture by K.E. Ooi
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said solving the island’s traffic jams took priority over tree conservation. — Picture by K.E. Ooi

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 25 — The removal of 16 trees along a main road in Penang Island is necessary to make way for a much-needed extra lane to reduce traffic congestion, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said today.

Responding to Penang Forum Steering Committee’s concerns last Sunday over the road-widening exercise along Jalan Masjid Negeri or Green Lane Road, Lim said it was not feasible to solely prioritise tree conservation when seeking solutions to the island’s traffic jams.

“Given that Green Lane Road functions as a main artery in the island’s existing network of roads, it undoubtedly bears a major brunt of traffic as residents would ply the route for their day-to-day business.

“The traffic woes on Green Lane Road is further increased as Penang’s heightened appeal as a popular destination for residence, investment and leisure resulting in an influx of visitors,” he said in a statement today.

There is already a proposed 5-in-1 solution in the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) that involves trains, taxis, buses, cable cars and water taxis or ferries, but Lim said the Penang government could not just wait for these measures to kick in.

“This lackadaisical attitude will surely not be accepted by Penangites as the State Government prides itself as one taking progressive actions,” he added as he justified the need for the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) to introduce the new lane.

The addition of a new lane to the Green Lane Road would both serve as a temporary measure to curb existing traffic congestion and act as an alternative route when the Air Itam bypass is completed, Lim said.

He said the Penang Forum’s Steering Committee’s proposed alternative methods to address traffic woes such as higher parking fees and imposing fees for road access to the city during peak hours will only “cater to the elite and the rich at the expense of the have-nots”.

Lim also said only 16 trees out of 427 trees along Green Lane Road (from Jalan Udini to Jalan Ayer Itam) will be affected, which he said is 3.75 per cent.

If Scotland Road (from Jalan Ayer Itam to Jalan Utama) is included in the Green Lane Road stretch, only 16 out of 580 trees or 2.76 per cent will be affected, he said.

He further pointed out that these 16 trees will not be disposed of, but will be replanted at a new location.

He said the Penang state government has planted 271,000 trees since 2008 after the federal opposition took over the state’s administration, adding that one of MBPP’s replanting projects saw the survival of 30 out of 34 trees that had to be removed for construction at Jalan Udini.

“Overall, this indicates an 88 per cent success rate. In tandem with the State Government’s commitment to a cleaner and greener state, MBPP is similarly determined to boast the same or even higher percentage of success in replanting the 16 trees from Green Lane Road,” he said.

He said the Penang state government is prepared to have discussions with Penang Forum and other non-governmental organisations to address their concerns.

“We will be blamed for not building roads but we are now blamed also for building roads. Tell us what should we do?” he asked.

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