GEORGE TOWN: The Penang South Reclamation (PSR) off the southern coast of the island is crucial for the economic transformation of the state, said Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow.
He said the state had great plans for the three man-made islands – Island A (930ha), Island B (445ha) and Island C (323ha).
Island A would be seen as a continuation and expansion of the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone (FIZ) while Island B would be “a playground for city planners and architects to give their best design” with a tram system and green spaces.
As for Island C, it is meant for a mixed development project.
Acknowledging the environmental concerns, Chow said the state government would be answerable to the people on social and econo-mic sustainability.
“Penang is a growing state, with the population now doubling to 1.8 million compared to less than a million in the 1980s.
“In another 10 to 15 years, the population will go beyond 2.3 million or 2.5 million.
“The people need jobs, social amenities and housing. We must cater to all this,” he told The Star.
Chow explained that there must be focus on growing the economy and sharing social cohesiveness in society, besides protecting environmental sustainability.
“There must be holistic and balanced growth. Some projects may compromise the environment, which we have never denied all along.
“We are taking a more balanced approach; that as a government, we have a responsibility to many citizens, not just a few,” he added.
It was earlier reported that the National Physical Planning Council had agreed to the implementation of PSR, provided that an 18-point advice is adhered to.
This land bank is expected to bring in more than RM70bil, of which RM46bil will be used to fund the Penang Transport Master Plan.
Besides securing approval for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report and a Traffic Impact Assessment report, other points included the preparation for an Environment Management Plan report, Social Impact Assessment report, Road Safety Audit report and Fisheries Impact Assessment survey.
Other notable requirements were for a national disaster management plan to be put into place to reduce the development risk in the event of a natural disaster such as a tsunami or increase in sea water levels, and a ban on the construction of condominiums priced above RM1mil.
Chow said the public tended to have the misconception that the Penang Development Corporation (PDC) had a lot of industrial land but according to statistics, there was not much land left.
He said Island A would be ideal to further drive the manufacturing sector, especially the electronic and electrical, as it would be close to the existing ecosystem – the FIZ.
There would be low-rise buildings for institutional use and factories, housing for workers in Island A since it is near the flight path, he added.
“Island A will be a continuation and expansion of Bayan Lepas FIZ where for the past 50 years we have seen how it had provided job opportunities, trained and produced small and medium enterprises to support multinational companies.
“We have now moved from low-cost mass production to high-tech research development.
“The Fourth Industrial Revolution will have to be promoted. In fact, the National Physical Planning Council, on its 18-point of advice, has mentioned that Industry 4.0 should be included into the island,” he said.
Industry 4.0, which changes the way people live and work, will see among others, how machines are able to autonomously adapt and coordinate their tasks to meet human needs.
Chow said B and C were meant for mixed development, adding that B would be a “playground” for city planners and architects.
“It will be a green and smart city, where city planners and architects can put in the best design.
“In terms of transport, we have proposed a tram system. In a new city, we can put a plan for it with the right corridor.
“We will be creating 30km to 50km of new waterfront along the three islands.
“Development will not happen along the shoreline, and there will be a green corridor, bicycle lane and jogging track for all to enjoy.
“For now, our waterfront is not easily accessible as it is not a public realm space for the community to enjoy,” he noted.
Chow said hopefully, the RM70bil revenue generated from PSR would be sufficient to pay for all the Penang Transport Master Plan projects and contribute surpluses for the state to carry out other projects.
He said they were now awaiting approval for the EIA for PSR.
“There is a lot of scheduling needed on cash flow and reimbursement on how the funds can be structured in a way that revenue can be ahead of work components.
“Land reclamation has to start because it is the financing for the light rail transit (LRT) line, the Pan Island Link 1 (PIL 1) and the reclamation itself. Reclamation needs money, too,” he said.