Premature of Putrajaya to condemn DEIAs — Penang

Chow Kon YeowGEORGE TOWN (Dec 23): The Penang government has refuted a federal minister’s claims that the state has failed to comply with the law in preparation of relevant environmental impact studies for the RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP), saying such claims were “premature” as the reports have yet to even be submitted to Putrajaya.

State local government, transportation and flood mitigation committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow (pictured) said the state and Gamuda-led SRS Consortium, which appointed consultants Dr Nik & Associates Sdn Bhd to prepare the reports, abided by law when conducting the detailed environmental impact assessments (DEIAs).

“Upon [securing] approval from the Department of Environment (DoE) [for the DEIAs], we will seek approvals of the National Physical Plan Council (NPPC) and the Public Land Transport Commission (SPAD). We are executing this according to the law,” Chow told a press conference yesterday.

Chow said this in response to claims by Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, as reported by a local daily on Tuesday, that the DEIAs were not complete and had failed to address several issues regarding the land reclamation involving three islands measuring a total of 1,700ha that is expected to take place off the southern coast of Penang Island.

Chow, who admitted that securing the approval of the DoE, which is under Wan Junaidi’s ministry, remains the “biggest obstacle” in the state’s path to realising its ambitious transport plan, also said the reclamation is crucial as it forms the core of the financing model of the massive project.

In short, if the reclamation is no go, Penang would be hard-pressed to find another source of funding for the multibillion project.

SRS Consortium is set to submit all three detailed DEIAs for land reclamation, Pan Island Link highway as well as the rail links, to the DoE by the second week of 2017, he said.

The PTMP is expected to kick off with the first phase of development involving reclamation, the light rail transit (LRT) and highway in the first quarter of 2018, upon the receipt of DEIA approvals from the federal government and signing of the final agreement with SRS Consortium.

“These three developments are in phase one and will start simultaneously, but reclamation must move ahead because land sale revenues are needed to finance the projects,” Chow said.

Additional components of the PTMP, included since August 2015 and deemed phase two of the project, comprise developments on the mainland such as a monorail line in Seberang Perai, interchanges in Butterworth and Juru, bus rapid transits and road upgrading.

Chow said the approval of the DEIAs by the DoE would also help the NPPC and SPAD decide to give their aye or nay to the project. “That is why we hope to get the DoE’s approval. We cannot go ahead with the PTMP if we don’t get the approval. We also cannot go into the final alignment of the LRT, station designs and land acquisitions without the approvals.”

On a question about the project’s cost-benefit analysis, Chow said SRS Consortium had done an economic and finance study on the economic benefit against the expected environmental and social losses in the southern region of the island, and found that the potential economic gains outweigh potential losses.

Additionally, Chow said a peer review of the PTMP is being conducted by Universiti Sains Malaysia’s civil engineering department head, Professor Leong Lee Vien.

SRS Consortium comprises Gamuda (with a 60% stake), Ideal Property Development Sdn Bhd (20%) and Loh Phoy Yen Sdn Bhd (20%).

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on Dec 23, 2016. Subscribe to The Edge Financial Daily here.

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