Conceding environmental harm from reclamation, Penang exco says to look at bigger picture

Opalyn Mok
Penang state exco Phee Boon Poh is pictured at Dewan Sri Pinang, George Town November 8, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Penang state exco Phee Boon Poh is pictured at Dewan Sri Pinang, George Town November 8, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Nov 8 — State exco Phee Boon Poh (DAP - Sungai Puyu) admitted that reclamation invariably affected the environment.

However, he said such projects should not be viewed in isolation.

“We must not only take into consideration factors by just looking at one sector, we have to look at the overall picture for example, on reducing the carbon footprint in Penang,” he told reporters during a break at the state legislative assembly.

He claimed the creation of three islands off the southern coast of the Penang island would serve to reverse the forced rural-urban migration that made malls, offices, restaurants and hotels centre in the city.

He said such centralisation increased congestion and carbon emissions.

“If we develop the three islands, the rural area there will be developed, people will stay there and work there and we will have less people on the road travelling into the city and this reduces carbon footprint,” he claimed.

“If we don’t do anything, we will get an urban slum in the city; people come here to work, people will sleep on the road and this forces people into poor living condition.”

Phee, who is the state environment committee chairman, was clarifying his reply to Lee Khai Loon (PKR - Machang Bubok) earlier today.

Lee said the Centre for Governance and Political Studies warned that nine areas in Malaysia could be sinking, including Penang.

He said the proposed Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project must take the fact of climate change into consideration as the man-made islands might sink with the city in future.

Phee replied that climate change was a global rather than local phenomenon.

“Everybody will be affected worldwide, we can’t resolve this problem alone, it has to be done by all in the world and governments have to understand climate change is real,” he said.

He said the claims that reclamation works in Penang would cause the main island to sink were not right.

“There are two ways of sinking, one is due to rising water levels and the other is settling of lands especially on reclaimed lands, which is normal,” he said.

Phee asserted that the reclamation will account for climate change so it will not be affected by rising sea levels.

“We will increase the level of the islands to allow for settlement and rising sea waters so it will not be affected,” he said.

On Opposition Leader Muhamad Yusoff Mohd Noof’s (BN-Sungai Dua) question about why the state insisted on the PSR despite objections, Phee replied that the big picture of the project must be considered.

He stressed that the state is not against the NGOs but that there is a need for all parties to come to an understanding that the proposed three islands were needed for an urban-rural migration plan.

Phee said the project will follow the required guidelines and conditions set by the Department of Environment.

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