The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) call on the government to scrap the proposed land reclamation project adjacent to the existing Seri Tanjung Pinang (STP1) development at Tanjung Tokong, Penang.
Tanjung Pinang Development Sdn. Bhd., subsidiary of E&O Property Development Berhad intends to carry out this massive development which covers about 760 acres, involving creation of two man-made islands, requiring approximately 33.1 million cubic metres of sand or fill material and 2 million tonnes of rock.
The Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) of the proposed project is being exhibited for public review and deadline for submission of comments is on 14 March. CAP and SAM had submitted our comments to the Department of Environment (DOE) on 6 March, along with input from staff scientists of Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW) U.S.
The description of the STP2 project is grandiose. We find that the STP2 project is not justified and comes at a price in terms of its adverse impact on the environment, mainly arising from the loss of coastal resources. The appraisal process to justify the project tends to overstate the benefits and understate the costs, making it appear desirable.
The project’s need is being justified as to “relieve growth pressure and scarcity of land”. But the DEIA fails to consider and include all other on-going projects in the State. The DEIA should have included data on current number of housing units on the island and state, on-going housing development projects, projects that have been given planning permission by the local authorities, before justifying the development of STP2.
The proposed STP2 is a continuation of the Seri Tanjung Pinang (Phase I) development (STP1). The impact of the reclamation project for the development of STP1 should have been assessed before proposing development of STP2. The impact study is necessary in view of a statement by the Penang State Deputy Director of the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID) who attributed sedimentation of Gurney Drive to the STP1 project.
“State DID deputy director Mohd Abu Bakar Othman told the Penang Local Government Forum on 12 Dec 2011 that mud was building up along the Gurney Drive shoreline due to weak sea currents not being able to wash the sediments away. He attributed the problem to the nearby Seri Tanjung Pinang reclamation project. Asked by reporters later, Mohd Abu Bakar said weak currents as well as the reclamation project at Seri Tanjung Pinang played a part in preventing sediments from flowing away properly. He said the phenomenon was discovered after the two-year long Integrated Shoreline Management Plan (ISMP) study was completed in 2010.” (Source: http://www.thesundaily.my/news/236587)
The DEIA also discusses the numerous ways the STP2 would impact fisheries, including impacts from the release of sediment during dredging and the permanent smothering of mudflats and other benthic environments that support local fisheries. It is pointed out that the STP1 project was disadvantageous to the fisher community due to impacts on marine life and fishing activity. These problems are yet to be resolved as some of them are long term in nature. With the advent of STP2, which is a larger project, we are concerned that the fisheries sector and livelihood of fishers will be seriously affected.
ELAW scientist found that the DEIA has not assessed how losing 328 hectares of mudflat, a vital component of an overall marine food chain, would impact pelagic and demersal fish species that the fishing communities of the Gurney-Paramount, Tanjung Tokong and Tanjung Bungah also rely upon. Thus the DEIA substantially underestimates the impact of the STP2 project on fishing communities.
The DEIA states that “loss of the existing sandy mudflats is permanent and unmitigated. However a new coastline will be created and in due course, the marine intertidal life will be re-established and the coastal birds will resume their feeding and foraging activities in the newly established coastline.”
This assessment of how birds and fish will just easily go elsewhere because they can move shows a lack of understanding of both the natural history of the species and the conditions they rely on to feed and reproduce. And the idea that over time marine life will just return to the way it was shows a real abdication of responsibility on the part of the project proponents.
The DEIA contains an unfounded claim that the STP2 project would improve water quality. Extending a drain and ensuring better flushing does facilitate water flow, but this argument sounds like a “dilution is the solution to pollution” argument. Better water flow does not address the quantity of contaminants and solid waste entering the waterway and in fact more development substantially increases the likelihood that the quantities of the waste streams will be higher.
Furthermore this proposed project is not a stand-alone project. There are many other components of the project that bring about adverse impacts to the environment for example quarrying of rock and sand mining activity. Assessment of impacts to the environment as a result of these activities should be done alongside this DEIA as it is an integral component of the proposed reclamation project.
Recognizing the ecological importance and sensitiveness of the coastal ecosystem and that the project is not justified, CAP and SAM are of the opinion that this project should be rejected. We urge the EIA review panel to reject this DEIA and the approving authority to scrap this proposed project.
Press Statement - 11 March 2014