Land reclamation continues in Penang as land gets scarcer
In land-scarce places like Singapore and Penang, land reclamation is practically the norm. In recent years however, many in Penang are questioning what’s in it for the Penang people. Typical questions read as follows:
“How much have the previous and present Penang state governments received from developers in exchange for granting them lucrative land reclamation rights (with gross development value worth billions of ringgit) for the coastal areas stretching from Tanjong Tokong in the north-east, down the entire east coast past Jelutong and extending to Gertak Sanggul in the south-west?
“Was there a concession agreement and how was it awarded? What’s in it (financially) for the people of Penang? Were there detailed EIAs and sedimentation studies, reviewed by expert panels, on the impact on the coastline and the change in sedimentation patterns?”
The sore point was that the government may have to use public funds (that’s our tax money) to clean up the damaging effects such as siltation due to land reclamation work. The siltation at the Gurney Drive coastline has always been cited as one of the most damaging effects of land reclamation.
A relatively recent report by a local newspaper has claimed that a state-commissioned study has revealed that reclamation works had resulted in significant siltation which affects the natural hydro-flow (tidal currents) of Penang’s coastal waters.
The study was commissioned after the state received numerous complaints about increasing coastal pollution. Following the study, the state has mulled various remedial measures, including ways to induce sea water to flow back into the Gurney Drive coastline, planting mangroves along the shoreline and constructing a pier through the trees, from Gurney Drive into the sea.
Meanwhile, land reclamation on the island continues relentlessly. Eastern & Oriental (E&O) expects to start reclamation work next year for 740 acres of land in Tanjong Tokong, in the north-east coast of Penang for its RM12bil Seri Tanjung Pinang Phase 2 (STP2) development.
“We expect this iconic development to ultimately redefine Penang island on the world map as a vibrant new seafront resort destination to reside, holiday, work and invest,” said E & O’s executive director Eric Chan.
“The development will also be a symbol of pride and progress, gaining worldwide publicity and prestige; and attract capital inflows and investment, employment and business opportunities, especially for Penang’s tourism. It will complement other major projects to turn the state into a world class city and an international property destination,” he added.
There are always two views on land reclamation – both have its good and bad points. In land-starved Penang, despite brickbats, such reclaiming will continue to expand the land size of Penang. How it would turn out and its impact is left to be seen in years to come. If it’s any consolation, consider
• In the Netherlands, – about 1/5 or 7,000 km2 of the entire country is reclaimed from the sea, lakes, marshes and swamps.
• South Korea – As of 2006, 38% or 1,550 km2 of coastal wetlands were reclaimed.
• Singapore – 20% of the original size or 135 km2 were reclaimed.
• Hong Kong – Hong Kong Disneyland, Hong Kong International Airport, and its predecessor, Kai Tak Airport, were all built on reclaimed land. Much reclamation has taken place in prime locations on the waterfront on both sides of Victoria Harbour.