Expert: Planned highway may impact fault lines

GEORGE TOWN: At least three places along the fault lines of the island will be breached by the planned highway between Gurney Drive and Bayan Lepas, but the stability of the granite bedrock has never been studied.

Scientist Dr Kam Suan Pheng (pic) said one of the major fault line crossings was at the valley between the Ayer Itam Dam and Kek Lok Si Temple.

“The detailed environmental impact assessment (DEIA) report on the highway – Pan Island Link (PIL) 1 – stressed that areas that intersect with fault lines are highly fractured and vulnerable, but does not evaluate the impact of the tunnelling.

“It also does not study how PIL 1 can affect the stability of Ayer Itam Dam,” she said.

In an exclusive report earlier this month, The Star revealed details of a 300m six-lane elevated highway supported on four piers crossing the valley between the dam and the iconic monastery.

Between this highway, one tunnel portal will lead out from Penang City Park and another will punch into the hill about 300m behind Kek Lok Si and reportedly 500m from the dam.

Dr Kam, a biologist, geographer, soil science and geospatial expert, presented a list of issues regarding the project’s DEIA on Saturday to a packed hall of over 200 people organised by Penang Forum, a loose coalition of over 40 Penang NGOs.

Penang Forum listed 14 issues that it claimed lacked emphasis in the DEIA and were sufficient grounds for the Department of Environment (DOE) to reject it.

“The DEIA does not estimate how much rock debris would result from the tunnelling and how the transportation of the debris would be managed.

“We estimate 2.5 million cubic metres of it. That is equal to 750,000 loads with five-tonne lorries,” Dr Kam told the audience.

She also questioned the claim in the DEIA report that PIL 1 would improve travelling speeds on highways in mainland Penang by as much as 27%.

“How on Earth can it improve travelling speeds on the mainland? We asked for the Traffic Impact Assessment, but was told it was not released to the public,” she said.

She called on Penangites to submit their feedback to the DOE before the Sept 7 deadline. Penang Forum prepared a template containing the 14 issues for the public to use for writing to the DOE.

Also speaking at the forum were Penang Heritage Trust president Lim Gaik Siang, former city councillor and historian Khoo Salma Nasution and former city councillor Dr Lim Mah Hui. It was moderated by Datuk Dr Sharom Ahmat.

While the NGOs have launched several salvos against PIL 1 and the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP), another camp criticising the NGOs seems to be forming.

The latest critic against the NGOs is Penang travel and history blogger Timothy Tye, who posted a scathing piece on his website,

“Theirs is an idealised world of green nature and heritage buildings. Economic competitiveness and creating jobs do not register with them. They are vocal for their own good, but not for that of everybody in Penang,” Tye wrote.

He said he and many others supported the PTMP because it was a plan to ensure that Penang did not lose out to local competitors such as Taiping, Kulim, Sungai Petani, Alor Setar and Ipoh on top of foreign ones such as Phuket and Medan.