GEORGE TOWN: Technology and engineering advancements will allow the state to bring the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project to fruition while preserving the environment at the same time, says Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow.
He said the state was in the process of fulfilling all the conditions for its commencement by this year.
“We have never denied that the project will have an impact, but have always shared with the people how we intend to mitigate the impact, create new habitats for marine life, and provide more job and business opportunities for fishermen and other locals.
“For the record, the state has obtained the approval for the Hydraulics Study, Traffic Impact Assessment Report, Marine Traffic Risk Assessment Report, and the Social Impact Assessment Report.
“The Environmental Impact Assessment Report, which also includes Fisheries Impact Assessment (EIA) Report, was also approved by the Environment Department, ” he said.
The other conditions, said Chow, touched on the Environmental Management Plan, which the state had recently resubmitted for approval.
As per the project’s EIA approval, Penang is obligated to build artificial reefs, fish aggregating devices, increase mangrove planting, release fish fry, build eco-engineering structures, fund studies and research, as well as launch many other programmes.
A fish aggregating device (FAD) is a man-made object used to attract fish, and usually consists of buoys or floats secured to the sea floor with concrete blocks.
FADs, which are used by both recreational and commercial fisheries, help fishermen locate schools of fish in an easier manner.
Chow was responding yesterday to the latest string of criticisms of the project from politicians and non-governmental organisations.
They are calling for the project to be cancelled on environmental and social reasons.
The latest naysayers include Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar, Kepala Batas MP and Penang Federal Action Council chairman Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican, and Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.
PSR is designed to fund the Penang Transport Master Plan which includes the Pan Island Link and Bayan Lepas Light Rail Transit.
The proposed project involves the reclamation and development of three islands covering 1, 820ha, namely Island A (930ha), Island B (566ha) and Island C (324ha).
Island A will be home to a proposed Green Tech Park to ensure Penang’s burgeoning electrical and electronics industry will have room to grow for the next few decades.
Chow said all EIA reports would look into the potential effect on the environment, given that all development projects carry some level of impact.
“With right mitigation measures in place, development and the environment can flourish together.
“That is why we are implementing so many mitigation measures, carrying a socio-economic plan for fishermen, and introducing green initiatives for PSR.
“We would like to address the EIA report, which was approved by DoE on June 25, 2019 after detailed and comprehensive assessment entailing technical reviews and two rounds of public displays, ” Chow said, adding that no other project was subjected to two rounds of EIA public displays like Penang South Islands.
On the EIA approval, which came with 72 conditions, he said it was normal for projects of this stature.
“Of the 72, 56 are general conditions related to compliance; project design and concept; approvals and licences; pollution prevention and mitigation measures; land reclamation and dredging activities; environmental quality control and monitoring; and others.
“The other conditions touched on the Environmental Management Plan, which we have recently resubmitted for approval; environmental audit; and the roles and duties of the environmental officer to ensure EIA compliance, ” said Chow, who emphasised that such a comprehensive plan to improve the livelihoods of fishermen had never been done before anywhere in the country.
“As such, no precedent should be set by the (federal) government, whereby approval for projects is reversed even though all approval conditions are being met, ” he said.