AS we step into 2019, we note that Penang’s environment has experienced an annus horribilis two years in a row.
Two landslide tragedies took place within the space of one year, resulting in 20 precious lives lost. A measly RM35,000 fine was imposed for 11 lives lost in the Tanjung Bungah landslide in 2017. No one has yet been held accountable for last year’s Bukit Kukus Paired Road landslide. The floods of November 2017 were followed by a series of smaller floods, landslips and road slips in 2018. We are ill-prepared for another major climate event.
The Penang Draft Structure Plan displayed in 2018 is loosening hill development restrictions and showing us a vision of rapacious reclamation with an utter lack of concern for the coastal environment, sustainable fisheries and life under water.
The Peel Avenue land, which could have been used for public purpose, has been sold and heritage bungalows demolished.
A 10km Pulau Betong to Telok Bahang road was announced recently, which will mean the destruction of large areas of mangrove. In light of the recent tsunami tragedies in Indonesia, the present government’s continued disregard for mangrove tsunami barriers seems completely short-sighted.
Penang’s future is fraught with man-made environmental threats. The Pan-Island Link will severely compromise and/or destroy the two most important parks on Penang island, Sungai Ara Linear Park and Youth Park. The trees along the entire stretch of Persiaran Kuari into Youth Park will likely be cut down for the feeder road. While we are busy planting small trees and saving some grass circles, there is no honest account of all the mature, old-growth trees that will be sacrificed for the various components of the proposed Penang Transport Master Plan.
Penangites have seen the state’s unrealistic physical development policies that will put undue pressure on our natural environment. We have come to realise that we can no longer rely on politicians to help us with the proliferating environmental issues in the face of over-development, and the state’s lack of understanding of new strategies and new building codes needed to adapt to climate change.
Instead we, the people of Penang, need to come together to save our state.
This year alone, petitions to save the hills of Penang, stop hill-cutting for housing development, and rejecting damaging highways have raised a total of almost 150,000 signatures. (Floods & Landslide: Stop Hill-Cutting for Housing Development almost 80,000 signatures; Reject Pil/Zenith, 20,000 online and in hard copy; and Save Penang Hill, almost 45,000.)
The proposed highways and expensive LRT system will leave our future generations in debt. Instead, we want public funds to be spent on repairing hills and preventing future flooding so that Penangites will not become the victims of development.
We warn of the dangers of building 70km of new highway, most of them through parks, established neighbourhoods and environmentally sensitive areas. Instead, we want a masterplan that will prioritise affordable public transport even if it means introducing traffic restrictions and congestion charges – moving people, not cars.
We call upon the people of Penang to wake up and demand development and transport strategies that are not destructive to our environment, and that will not fail our climate commitments or betray future generations.
KHOO SALMA NASUTION