With employees ditching offices and working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a residents’ association in Penang questioned whether major land expansion projects remain a good idea.
They demanded the Penang government to show the findings of an audit firm stating that the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project would serve as a key driver for the state’s recovery from the pandemic-induced slump, reported Free Malaysia Today (FMT).
The demand comes after Penang Infrastructure and Transportation Committee Chairman Zairil Khir Johari said that PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) independent study showed that the reclamation project will attract RM70 billion worth of foreign investments, creating 30,000 jobs within a 30-year period.
Zulfikar Abdul Aziz, Treasurer of Tanjung Bungah Residents’ Association, urged Zairil to reveal the findings of PwC to the public to substantiate his claim.
He noted that Zairil seemed oblivious to the current realities as well as to the fact that the reclamation project comes with serious environmental and financial consequences.
“It is obvious that employees have ditched their commutes and office spaces, and switched to working from their homes,” said Zulfikar as quoted by FMT.
“Penang needs to see this as a watershed moment in history that marks the end of a traffic-jam era and usher in a new one. The business models for delivering infrastructure will need to change whereby parks, trails and other green spaces need to take higher priority.”
He believes it is time for the state to rethink the PSR project since “the changes in our climate and the repercussions of this pandemic are going to require more creative thinking about urban infrastructure”.
Zulfikar described the recent call by Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar to stop the PSR as a good move.
Nurul Izzah wants environmental regulators to revoke approvals issued earlier for the reclamation project, saying the state should instead focus on post-pandemic recovery.
The PSR project is the state’s plan to create three islands which will later be sold to finance the RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan. It believes the project is essential to support the rising demand for industrial land.
Image source from FMT