NGOs still against Penang’s Pan Island Link 1

GEORGE TOWN (April 15): The Penang authorities are “ignoring public objections”, said non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the state in reaction to the news that the RM7 billion Pan Island Link 1 (PIL1) environmental impact assessment (EIA) has got regulatory approval from the Environment Department (DOE).

“We were among many thousands of Penangites and groups who had voiced our deep concerns over the EIA, which had many flaws,” president of the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) SM Mohamed Idris said in a statement today that was reported by The Malay Mail.

Mohamed Idris also said that he was surprised by the DOE’s approval given that “public sentiment was largely against the project”.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow earlier announced that the DOE “approved” the EIA of the project on April 10 and that work on the highway may commence by the middle of 2020.

It was also reported that the “EIA was approved with 56 conditions” but the chief minister did not go into the details of those conditions.

Mohamed Idris demanded that Chow list all 56 conditions, saying: “Given the huge public outcry over the PIL1, it is imperative that the state government not hide the conditions for approval,” reported the news portal.

He also stated that the EIA report had wrongly stated that heritage structures would not be impacted by the construction of the mega project.

“This is not true as the Phor Tay Buddhist School, St Nicholas Home, Penang Chinese Girls’ High School, Shree Muniswarar Temple, the iconic Penang Hill railway, Kek Lok Si Temple and Air Itam Dam are all over 50 years old with cultural and historical significance and these will be adversely affected by the PIL1,” he said.

Mohamed Idris also explained in his statement that such a large highway will “ruin the island’s charm and it will have an adverse visual impact on green parks and forested hills”.

Meanwhile, chairperson of Tanjong Bungah Residents Association (TBRA) Meena Raman does not agree with Chow’s description of the EIA approval as a "major milestone" for the state government.

“The PIL1 will change the character of Penang dramatically, with an elevated highway running along Gottlieb Road, Youth Park and tunnelling done close to Penang Hill and Kek Lok Si, some of the island’s iconic structures," Meena told Malaysiakini.

Meena also told the news portal that the state government is “hellbent” on making Penang “look like Bangkok”, which will come at the expense of the island’s “unique charms”.

“We are most distressed by this. We want the chief minister to release the 56 conditions that were part of the EIA approval,” she added.

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