IN a matter of weeks, Malaysia will kickstart the process of raising land from the sea off the southern part of Penang island – an undertaking known as the Penang South Islands (PSI) project.
This follows the announcement on March 25 that the project shall take off using the project development model – a joint venture between the private sector and the state government. For this, a special purpose vehicle will be formed, with the Penang government holding a 30% interest, while SRS Consortium Sdn Bhd holds the remaining 70%.
Much has been said about the value that the emerging PSI will bring to not just Penang, but also the nation. As a key component of Penang’s 2030 socio-economic vision, this total 1,820ha land bank of the three islands – Island A (930ha), Island B (566ha) and Island C (324ha) – will allow the carefully crafted masterplan by a team of internationally renowned consultants for PSI to be put in place.
In the next few decades, the state government will begin the reclamation and subsequent development to fulfil Penang’s vision by presenting a master-planned project that will be benchmarked against best practices in accordance with environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles.
Over time, this new land – starting with Island A – will be home to developments that aim to increase household incomes, create climate resilient infrastructure, as well as ensure a good quality of life by embracing sustainability in the most comprehensive way possible.
“Embracing ESG principles will position PSI on a global stage in an environment where investors are looking at their investment’s wide-ranging impact in various ways, beyond the straightforward financial returns, ” said SRS Consortium masterplan director Eddie Chan.
A walkable city on the way
Everything on PSI is designed to be within easy reach based on the intent to “put bicycles and pedestrians ahead of cars”.
This cuts down carbon emission by reducing the need to drive as walking and cycling – along with seamless integration of public transport modes such as water taxis, e-trams and LRT – will be given top priority.
PSI will be guided by an urban design approach that enables everyone to reach their destination within 15 minutes, whether by walking, cycling, public transit or a combination of these.
Intended to be a car-light township, the planners have envisioned a wide range of incentives to coax more residents to embrace low-impact mobility.
Proper right-of-way or dedicated corridors, and reserves for water taxis, e-trams and LRT will be identified, with the entire mixed development connecting neighbourhoods (residential), green tech parks (industrial) as well as the heart of the island town centre (commercial).
These developments will be optimally clustered around public transport nodes which include water taxis that ply the canals within PSI – linking residential neighbourhoods to key destinations on the island such as George Town.
This plan underscores Penang’s seriousness in embracing a green transportation network ranging from light rail and e-trams to autonomous buses and other personal mobility devices such as electric scooters and bicycles.
A good number of solar-powered water taxis that move people along the PSI canals will use clean energy with low carbon footprint and low noise level to keep their environmental footprint in check, besides keeping the air clean and the place quiet.
“The development is aimed to be carbon neutral, climate resilient and highly liveable right from the start, and this can be seen in how the masterplan and integrated transportation network is sustainably laid out on the PSI, ” said Chan.
“PSI is master planned to catalyse the paradigm shift in modal share to 70:30 by providing alternatives to fossil-fuelled cars, whereby 70% of the trips will be made using public transport or personal mobility.
“We hope the success of PSI will then lead to spillovers to other parts of the island, if not the whole country. This modal shift will create a healthier environment for everyone and make Penang a highly liveable city, ” he added.
To make personal mobility a viable proposition, many measures are in place to make each journey a comfortable one, such as a comprehensive network of well-shaded pedestrian and cycling paths complete with bicycle stations – up to a total of 140km in length on both sides of all main roads winding through the coastal park and the 6km-long canal promenade.
These paths seamlessly integrate with connections to public transport hubs which allow PSI to focus on moving people efficiently, instead of having them rely on cars for short journeys.
PSI will pioneer water recycling with the construction of a dual-purpose sewage treatment plant that employs membrane technology to reclaim water for non-potable use.
Water reuse will be implemented through an extensive network of a dual piping system, one for treated water and the other for reclaimed water, making it the first of its kind for the nation.
Other than landscape irrigation, the reclaimed water will be used for industrial purposes such as air-conditioner cooling towers, toilet flushing and general washing.
Just this month, the term “water reclamation” or water recovery has entered the national lexicon, with water reuse to be embraced systematically by the Federal Government. Sewage water will be processed and treated in a modern sewerage treatment plant to reclaim recycled water for non-potable use.
Other than systematic water reclamation at the plant level, efforts to capture water for reuse goes beyond simple rainwater harvesting typically seen in homes as PSI will set aside land for bio-retention swales linked to ponds and canals to store rainwater so that these sources can act as additional raw water resources.
Engineers will increase the volume of storage for freshwater by slowly modifying the network of canals that are used for water transportation within PSI. For this purpose, this network of waterways will be blocked off from the sea through a series of weirs and locks so that they will eventually turn into freshwater reservoirs over time.
Collectively, these water bodies also help to divert water during storms so that flash floods are kept to a minimum, while ensuring only clean surface runoff is discharged into the surrounding sea.
To align with the Low Carbon City Framework (LCCF), power consumption on PSI will be moderated by the use of smart grids, energy-efficient buildings that rely on energy-efficient cooling systems, and a host of other smart tech features that optimise cooling, ventilation, lighting, irrigation and security systems to make this built environment a low-impact one.
The PSI urban design policy promotes green building designs that embrace, for instance, passive cooling through the alignment of the city grid and buildings to prevailing winds. This essentially creates a wind tunnel effect to maximise natural ventilation and reduces dependence on air conditioning.
The plans extend to waste management; solid waste from occupants will be channelled through a pneumatic vacuum waste collection network. This sealed network will not only handle waste in a hygienic manner, but is also designed at the collection end to facilitate resource separation to ensure a high level of recyclability, given that the success of recycling depends a lot on the good presorting of waste in the first place.
With the masterplan and design concepts embracing key ESG principles combined with advanced technologies to cater for next generation industries, PSI is envisaged to move Penang up the value chain as a global investment destination.
On the social aspect, PSI is planned as a comprehensively inclusive development, with its universal access features that cater to a diverse community from across the entire strata of society. These come in the form of low-density service apartments, all the way to landed homes. Inclusivity on PSI is especially reflected by the eventual presence of more than 5,000 units of mid-rise affordable housing, all of them boasting of convenient access to public transport nodes.
The first development will be the Green Tech Park with vacant possession ready by 2023.
Over time, this 283ha Green Tech Park will be backed by housing, commercial and recreational facilities. Island A will be supported by clusters of F&B, entertainment, a marketplace, fishermen’s wharf, waterfront esplanade and other attractions. Island A will be a world-class tourist attraction, complementing the old-world charm of George Town.
All these will be made possible as the masterplan sets aside an extraordinary proportion of land (more than 20%, or 182ha) for open spaces, parks, beaches and esplanades – all of which will be accessible to the public.
Combined with efforts to enhance other parts of the state, PSI will be a substantial contributor to uplift Penang’s overall attractiveness for living, work, leisure and tourism.
It has been said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In the coming months, Penang will be taking that step towards securing its place on the global stage by embarking on an iconic development premised upon best ESG practices.
By undertaking this, the state is putting on solid footing its vision for Penang 2030 – a family-focused, green and smart state that will in turn inspire the nation to greater heights.