GEORGE TOWN: Believe it or not, the Jelutong landfill is set to be Penang’s latest “real estate goldmine”, with a potential to generate a bonanza of at least RM1bil to the state this year.
In land-scarce Penang island, development of the landfill is wonderful news and the state government will be raking in big bucks for it.
Left to stabilise since 2010 with nothing but construction waste being packed into it, this solid bit of coastal land beside Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway is ready to be rehabilitated and developed.
“We found a suitable developer and we are in the final stages of sealing the agreement,” said a source in the state government.
The developer, a public listed company, also gave the state government a windfall deal.
“There are about 40ha there. For the first 34ha rehabilitated, the state government will keep 25% (about 10ha).
“For the remaining, the state will get 35%,” the source revealed, adding that the size could not be determined as there will be minor reclamations on both sides of the coastal landfill for buffers and fortifications.
“But the developer will have its work cut out for it because the landfill is now almost 40m high, almost like a 10-storey building. They need to level it,” he said.
Plans are afoot to turn the landfill into an “eco and futuristic town”.
The source said George Town has three main seafronts with the potential to be the crowning glories of the island.
“You have the Gurney Drive stretch, the Esplanade and the Karpal Singh Drive promenade with the landfill at one end.
“At one time, the landfill stretched from Jalan Jelutong to the sea. Even the expressway is partly on the old landfill.
“Now all that’s left of the landfill is the sea-end, the best portion,” the source said.
Jelutong landfill began in the 1970s, at a time when it was about 3km from the Weld Quay ferry terminal and considered the city outskirts.
Municipal waste used to be dumped, and the stink gave Jelutong a bad name.
That ill repute ended when the 1.5km Karpal Singh Drive in Bandar Sri Pinang came with a wide promenade that attracts scores of joggers, cyclists and families every evening.
“Old landfills are always designed to be far from cities but cities grow quickly until landfills become part of the city limits.
“Now Jelutong is every bit a part of George Town and the landfill will be a spot without social or heritage restrictions for development,” the source added.
Even the proposed cable car cables from Penang Sentral in Butterworth will cross the channel and land in the Jelutong landfill.
Another source admitted that there could be worry in the fact that one of the pylons of the cable car service might have to be planted at the Middle Bank.
This is a large expanse of sand, visible only at low tide, about 1km from Penang island’s shore north of the landfill.
The daily alternating exposure to air and shallow seawater gives Middle Bank an eco-system rarely seen on a global scale, but the source said the footprint of the pylon is small and will not harm the precious seagrass and marine wildlife of Middle Bank.
“The Middle Bank is part of the unique scenery you can see from Jelutong. It will always be protected,” he said, adding that the developer who won the project was also required to build affordable housing on the landfill.
FIABCI Malaysian chapter president Michael Geh said rehabilitated landfills are usually prime real estate worldwide.
“I have seen rehabilitation processes in Korea, Indonesia and Taiwan.
“In Taiwan, the pattern is to turn it into an urban park, library or property development,” he said.
Geh said the Taiwanese models of development are good; the landfills are often transformed to benefit the public.
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