GEORGE TOWN: Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) critical of the proposed 19.5km Pan-Island Link (PIL) I that links Gurney Drive to the Penang International Airport have been told to get their facts right before commenting.
Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the use of inaccurate visuals and description by the NGOs had provoked unnecessary negative sentiments among the public.
“The Penang government welcomes open discourse on the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).
“However, there is a clear misinformation on the portrayal of PIL I highway which is a component of the PTMP.
“Using ‘self-created’ pictures on Penang City Park, Sg Ara Linear Park and Penang Hill to misrepresent PIL I is an unhealthy practice and should not be encouraged,” he said in a statement on Facebook yesterday.
Chow was responding to several Penang NGOs who, through news reports, had voiced their concern on the proposed PIL I after its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report was made available for public viewing at 10 locations until Aug 10.
It was earlier reported that social activist Anil Noel Netto had pointed out in his blog that the state government should reveal the total tonnage of explosives needed to build the six-lane highway.
Penang Forum, a coalition of about 40 NGOs, also stated that “in the absence of official figures, some have estimated that almost 15,000 tons of explosives will be used to construct all the tunnels”.
The Penang Citizen Awareness Chant Group (Chant) also urged Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed to intervene on the proposed PIL I which it claimed could have an environmental impact on the Penang City Park.
Chow said the ‘drill and blast’ tunnelling construction method proposed on Penang’s hills was acknowledged as the most used, established and proven method for tunnel excavation in the world.
He cited the Genting Sempah Tunnel opened in 1979 and Menora Tunnel opened in 1986 as examples of highway tunnels built using the method.
Pointing out that the hills where the tunnels pass through “are still standing tall today”, he stressed that the tunnel construction would be carried out under controlled conditions with added safety measures to minimise potential concerns such as vibration, noise and dust.
“The method is widely used around the world and in Malaysia, applicable to all types of rocks.
“The question of how much explosives needed for tunnel construction is redundant, as it is only but a means to complete the tunnelling works.
“Getting the public’s attention to unnecessary details will not only be counter-productive, but undermines the importance of PIL I to improve Penang island’s road network hierarchy and disperse worsening traffic,” he said.
Chow also assured that park-goers would not be affected by construction activities at Penang City Park as these would take place within the cordoned area.
“In the event of trees that are inevitably affected, these will be transplanted where possible in accordance with MBPP requirement,” he said.
On the environmentally sensitive area of Penang Hill, he said a detailed study had been carried out to convert the earlier proposed viaduct design to a tunnel to avoid impact to the Penang Hill Special Area Plan which took effect on Sept 1, 2016.
“As a result of the alignment change at Penang Hill, there will be no exposed part of the highway seen at Penang Hill,” he said.