- “Gamuda claims that over 93% of public comments on the EIA favoured the reclamation project. This is not a popularity contest. Those who approved the EIA should have scrutinised the grounds given by informed and knowledgeable Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and individuals for objecting to the project and give reasons why they were not accepted. They have not done so,” the tripartite statement said.
KUALA LUMPUR (May 17): Three non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have lambasted Gamuda Bhd’s claim that the Penang South Island (PSI) project was approved after rigorous environmental impact assessment (EIA) process and public’s overwhelming support.
Gamuda in a statement on Tuesday (May 16), slammed its critics who called for a scale-down of the project, saying such a call was a disregard to the integrity of the EIA process.
In response, the three organisations namely the Consumers’ Association of Penang, Sahabat Alam Malaysia, and Penang Forum in a joint statement on Wednesday (May 17) said Gamuda’s claim that the project received positive response from the public must be taken “with a pinch of salt” due to the company’s “vested interest in the mega reclamation project”.
“Gamuda claims that over 93% of public comments on the EIA favoured the reclamation project. This is not a popularity contest. Those who approved the EIA should have scrutinised the grounds given by informed and knowledgeable Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and individuals for objecting to the project and give reasons why they were not accepted. They have not done so,” the tripartite statement said.
The NGOs added that the EIA process itself is “flawed” and failed to take into sufficient consideration that the project will result in the destruction of an important fishery site in Penang.
“[Fishery in Penang] provides income for over 3,000 people and their families, and food — fish, prawns, crabs and other marine life – for the consumers,” the trio said.
They further said citing a letter from former Department of Environment director-general on June 25, 2019 who advised the state government that the Penang South Reclamation will “cause permanent and residual impacts on mudflat ecosystems, fishing grounds, turtle landing areas, and some coral reefs in Pulau Rimau”.
“Despite this warning, the EIA for the reclamation project was approved. That speaks volumes for the independence and objectivity of the EIA process,” they said.
The NGOs also challenged Gamuda’s claim that the project has secured a high Social Impact Assessment approval rating of 79.1% from the local community, and more specifically, the support of 74.8% of the local fishermen.
“[This] was challenged during the EIA feedback process, as being exaggerated and misleading, and without proper basis. We pointed out that the sample size was way too small for such conclusions.
“All this was ignored, including opposition to the project by the State Fishermen’s Association, PEN-MUTIARA that represents 6,000 members,” they added.
The three NGOs also cried out that there was gross undervaluation in the EIA report’s economic valuation of the environmental impacts.
“For example, the latest approved EIA quoted the unit price of shrimps as RM6,000 a tonne in 2022, which works out to RM6 a kg. This is indeed unbelievable, for anyone who buys shrimp will tell you that the unit price is at least 10 times higher than what is stated in the EIA. Yet, such gross undervaluation is allowed in the EIA,” they said.
The trio said they continue to maintain that the project is unjustifiable.
“We stand firm in our opposition to the unwarranted PSR, and once again reiterate our call and appeal to the federal and state government to scrap the PSI project,” they added.
Last Thursday, Penang’s Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow announced via a Facebook post that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had directed the state government to reduce the project, after considering concerns raised by various parties.
Gamuda holds a 60% stake in the consortium, called SRS Consortium Sdn Bhd that undertakes the PSI project, while Penang-based Loh Phoy Yen Holdings Sdn Bhd and Ideal Property Development Sdn Bhd hold 20% each.