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Thursday September 4, 2008

Under threat from pollution

THE standard of cleanliness and hygiene of Penang’s Gurney Drive coastline has reached an almost unbearable state but no immediate solution seems to be in sight.

The Penang Municipal Council collects 350 to 400kg of rubbish every morning from Gurney Drive’s rock face, pedestrian walk and drains but by evening, the rot is back.

“All this rubbish wasn’t here this morning,” said state Local Government, Traffic Management and Environment Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow as he gestured to the disposable utensils, empty plastic bottles and other unsightly rubbish collected at the mudflat when inspecting the Gurney Drive coastline Tuesday afternoon.

“Over the last few years, the siltation has grown at an alarming rate and the mud has accumulated over 1.8m in height. We see that the rubbish and mud are changing the characteristics of Gurney Drive,” he added.

An eyesore:The popular Gurney Drive coastline is experiencing an expanding mudflat while the area is strewn with rubbish.

Although the short-term solution of clearing the rubbish seems to be simple enough, state bodies warn that improving the image of the area might not be so easy.

“A lot of this is caused by the pedestrians and not so much by the hawkers. However, the tide also brings in a lot of rubbish from the sea and other places up north,” said state Drainage and Irrigation Department deputy director Mohd Abu Bakar Othman who was also present at the site visit.

Aside from the human factor, nature has a hand in the 100m-long mudflat that now greets joggers and visitors to the coast.

“What is happening is called accretion which is like the opposite of erosion.

“Coastal elements and mud are collecting on the coastline and is very visible when there is low tide.

“However, we are thinking of ways to make this ‘disadvantage’ into an advantage,” said state Department of Environment (DOE) director Dr Ahmad Kamarulnajuib Che Ibrahim.

Chow said there were a number of suggestions on what could be done to salvage the area.

“There have been suggestions of desilting, building a recreational park or green belt or starting a mangrove forest on a limited scale.

“Reclamation may also be an option as this area was previously earmarked for the construction of the Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR).

“We have no knowledge of when the project, which has been shelved by the Federal Government, will be back on track.

“Even so, a carriageway of four to six lanes will only take up so much space and we planned to reclaim more than that,” Chow said, adding that the 260ha area of mudflat would make the reclamation process easier.

He said the state would be looking to its various related bodies for suggestions on improving the Gurney Drive coastline over the next few months.

“We will await some proposals from the technical departments and hopefully, we can launch some public-private partnerships to save the area,” he said.

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