Penang needs govt aid to shore up coastline

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang state government is seeking funds amounting to RM43mil to mitigate beach erosion in Batu Ferringhi.

“We have sent a letter to the Federal Government last week requesting the funds, which are for us to mitigate the beach erosion as a long-term solution,” said state infrastructure and transport committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari.

He said as a short-term mitigation measure, the state government has implemented the Phase 1 project in Batu Ferringhi beach along a 20-metre coastline, which was conducted by the northeast district Irrigation and Drainage Department (DID) in January last year.

“The total cost of Phase 1 was RM20,000, and was funded by the state government.

“In September 2022, DID had allocated RM800,000 for Phase 2 on short-term mitigation along 180m, carried out by the northeast district DID.

“Phase 3 along 40m, also carried out by the northeast district DID in September 2022, costs about RM200,000, and was funded by the state.”

He said other emergency repair works along the shorelines from Pulau Betong to Kuala Sungai Pinang and related works to be carried out this year costs about RM20,000 and is funded by the state government.

“DID will also carry out construction and rehabilitation of coastal bank projects funded by the Federal Government in Bagan Ajam, Mak Minah and Byram shoreline in Seberang Prai.”

Zairil said as of the end of 2022, five erosion areas have been identified.

“Those on the island are Batu Ferringhi and the Sungai Pinang river mouth in southwest district, while those on the mainland are Bagan Ajam, Mak Minah and Byram,” he said.

Datuk Prof Dr Zulfigar Yasin, who is with Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies, said in an effort to prevent more coastal erosion, relevant agencies must implement new approaches in an integrated way between hard and green solutions.

“Hard solutions consist of building embankments and wall structures, while green solutions involves natural processes such as vegetation and beach nourishment,” he said.

The marine biologist said with these two approaches, positive results such as increased fisheries and a more sustainable environment can be achieved.

“Currently, Penang is trying to combine these two approaches to prevent coastal erosion.”

Prof Zulfigar, who recently presented a paper on coastal erosion during a conference at Penang Institute on Jan 13, said coastal erosion in Malaysia is due to rising sea levels and uncontrolled development near beaches.

“Penang and Kedah have the same problem.

“However, Penang’s erosion problem is not on the same scale as Kedah, because the latter has a longer coastline. For Penang, I think the problem is more localised, unlike Kedah, which has hundreds of kilometres of coastline.”

He said the coastal erosion in Kedah can be seen north of Kuala Kedah and Perlis where a huge coastal erosion is happening.

“The issue is much more critical because Kedah only has one strip of road that separates the sea from the land.

“So when the road wall collapses, sea water can enter the padi fields,” he said.

Penang Civil Defence Force (APM) operation officer Kapt (PA) Muhammad Aizat Abd Ghani said DID has taken temporary measures to protect the beach by building a temporary walls at the beach.

“As of now, we have four observation towers along our coastline,” he said.

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