GEORGE TOWN: Alarm bells rang among Tanjung Bungah residents after they realised the proposed new road from Teluk Bahang to their neighbourhood entails de- forestation and construction on slopes with gradients steeper than 25 degrees.
They want the project scrapped and demand that the state government think of alternatives.
Through the Tanjung Bungah Residents Association (TBRA), 400 of them signed a petition against the project known as North Coastal Paired Road (NCPR).
TBRA chairman Meenakshi Raman said the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report showed that 3.34ha of gazetted forest reserves would be cleared for the road.
“Tracts of the Teluk Bahang Forest Reserve and Bukit Kerajaan Forest Reserve will be deforested. How can this be allowed?
“These reserves are gazetted as water catchment areas too,” she said in a press conference at the Tanjung Bungah market yesterday.
She said the EIA report revealed that 46% of the proposed road would be on slopes with gradients higher than 25 degrees.
“The EIA is clear that slope instability risks will be high. Mitigation measures are suggested but haven’t we learned enough about Penang’s development? Landslides occur often here,” she said.
The residents urged the Depart-ment of Environment (DoE) in writing not to approve the EIA. A copy of the letter was forwarded to Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng on Aug 21.
The NCPR is a 10.53km four-lane road from near SK Teluk Bahang until the L-shaped bend of Lembah Permai at Sri Vazhikattum Munis-warar shrine.
This is part of the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) and is under the purview of Consortium Zenith Construction.
It is one of three new roads planned as the traffic dispersal system of the Penang Undersea Tunnel project.
Residents are also confounded by the cost.
Meenakshi said that in 2011, the estimated construction and land acquisition cost of the NCPR was expected at RM1bil.
She said the EIA stated that at an average speed of 70kph, motorists would save 14 minutes of travel time compared with the current coastal road.
“Spending such a huge amount to save 14 minutes is a colossal waste of public resources,” she added.
She felt that the EIA should have included a cost-to-benefit analysis.
“For RM1bil, can’t we think of other alternatives to the traffic problem?”
In response, state exco member Lim Hock Seng clarified that the clearing of the forest reserves was studied in the EIA as a requirement but the state was planning to avoid forest clearing.
“The first phase of NCPR is from Batu Ferringhi to Tanjung Bungah. That is the most urgent.
“The Teluk Bahang stretch, where the forest reserves are, won’t be built so soon.
“We do plan to continue examining alternatives to avoid deforestation.”
Lim said the main road in Batu Ferringhi could not “take it anymore during the holiday season” and the NCPR was vital to relieve traffic jams in the area.
Also, he said SRS Consortium, the state’s PTMP project delivery partner, was planning a viaduct from Lembah Permai to Seri Tanjung Pinang.
“So we are not dumping traffic or leaving a bottleneck at the Vale of Tempe Road with the NCPR.
“Motorists can choose between the winding coastal road or the NCPR depending on where they are going.
“This project will help reduce traffic,” he said.
Meenakshi also expressed shock that the EIA stated that NCPR would have 10 proposed interchanges.
But Lim and also Consortium Zenith chairman Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli said there would be only three interchanges in the middle of the road.
“They will be between Teluk Bahang and Tanjung Bungah, in Jalan Sungai Emas, Persiaran Sungai Permai and near Chin Farm Waterfall,” said Zarul Ahmad.
Penang Water Supply Corporation chief executive officer Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa gave an assurance that the NCPR’s route would not affect water catchment because the road would be downhill of Teluk Bahang Dam or any other reservoir.
Did you find this article insightful?