GEORGE TOWN: Residents of Penang island’s southeastern quarter have been jolted by revelations that a new reclamation plan is being eyed at the famous Queensbay area, opposite Pulau Jerejak.
The news comes as a shocker not least because there are already a few high-profile reclamation projects in the works in Penang, each boasting mega development projects worth billions.
Concerns are also being raised over whether the Queensbay shoreline, which is very close to Pulau Jerejak, is suited for such development.
While a popular public coastal park exists nearby, there is also the potential impact on traffic and congestion, as well as on the natural tides and the environment at such a sensitive area.
As it is, the plan is said to include a 26-storey high-rise tower with some 1,800 units on reclaimed soil.
When put together, the number of units among the existing condominium complexes in the area already add up to 1,800. These include The Bay Garden, Bay Star, Gold Coast, Putra Marine, Putra Place and Villa Emas.
A spokesman for the residents of the condominiums, Carolyn Wong, sounds out the doubts being cast on the benefits of such a private commercial initiative for the public and the local neighbourhood.
“Such reclamation should not be done, nor be allowed as land reclamation of the area has been done to the maximum allowed 20 years ago,” said Wong, explaining that planning permission for the project has been submitted to the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP).
Plans are already under way very close by for the RM10 billion Penang World City project on 102 acres (41.28ha) of land, of which 35 acres have yet to be reclaimed.
Interestingly, the current predicament echoes a similar controversy which was thought to have been resolved in late 2011. Following an outcry, the Penang government had then called off an idea to allow another reclamation project in the same area.
Residents liken the bay to the famous Unesco-listed West Lake of Hangzhou, with its natural beauty, calm and scenic landscape.
“To do more land reclamation would destroy this picturesque bay which we now have. This is irreplaceable. Can we have another bay like this?” Wong asks.
The area is also directly under the flight path for planes from the international airport nearby.
“How can the DCA (Department of Civil Aviation) approve the construction of a 26-storey building in the area of a flight path?” Wong asked. “How can the intended development of Queensbay with a massive development of 1,900 condominium units help to create green areas for the people?
“Piling and building works will pose a danger to the residents and the houses of Bay Garden and add to the massive road congestion every day.”
The area is in the state constituency of Pantai Jerejak, which is represented in the state assembly by Deputy Chief Minister (I) Datuk Rashid Hasnon.
It is understood that Rashid felt the people’s frustration and worries during a meeting with the residents about a week ago. When asked about the issue by the press, he acknowledged that the plan has been received by the Penang Island Municipal Council, but said that he has been informed that the height of the development has been lowered.
He also stressed that Penang has frozen development of “Small Office Home Office” (SoHo) projects for the time being, so the question of this project — which features SoHo units — need not arise for now.
Still, a protest by residents on Sunday showed how strongly they feel that the authorities should consider public opinion when approving projects.
Coincidentally, the Penang Forum, an umbrella grouping of local NGOs, is scheduled to hold a press conference today to explain in detail its analyses on risks and shortcomings of the massive reclamation for Sri Tanjung Pinang II, off Gurney Drive in the north of the island.
Adding to the rapidly mounting voice of worried Penangites, it is bound to pile the pressure on a state government that is now being criticised for being “reclamation-happy”.
This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on March 27, 2014.
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