Penang mayor: Lower terrace of Esplanade promenade designed to showcase heritage seawall

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The Esplanade seawall is now finally completed and open to public. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
The Esplanade seawall is now finally completed and open to public. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, May 18 — The lower terrace of the newly completed Esplanade seawall was designed to showcase a portion of the heritage seawall dating back to 1807, Penang Island City Council Mayor Datuk Yew Tung Seang said today.

The lower section, which is only a small part of the 570-metre upgraded promenade, was designed to maintain the heritage value of the site.

“We expect spring tide and high tide in this site between 30 and 45 days a year so there was nothing wrong with the design,” he stressed in a press conference at the site, just days after the official opening of the upgraded seawall.

The lower terrace was flooded during high tide for a few hours several days ago, leading to the section being closed to public.

The closure due to high tide spurred criticism from the public and some politicians, many accusing the state of design failure.

“We are fully aware that springtide will happen here and the design has taken this into consideration where we have a perforated railing and proper drainage systems for the water to be discharged back into the sea so there were no issues at all,” he said.

The city council also installed several signages warning the public of the tidewater and a gate to close the lower terrace area during high tide and at night.

Yew said gates have been installed on both access points to the terrace and they will be locked from 9pm to 7am daily.

However, the gates were vandalised within a day after the official opening of the promenade.

He said new ones will be installed soon.

“There was a constant stream of visitors to the site after the opening, we can see the public enjoyed this new open space by the sea,” he said.

He said Penang is a coastal city surrounded by the sea so any Penangites who visit the coasts and beaches should be aware of the sea tides.

“If they visit Batu Ferringhi, they will know to be careful during high tide, so similarly, if they are visiting this site during high tide, they should take similar precautions because this is a coastal area,” he said.

He said there is nothing new or sudden about the spring tide and high tide at the Esplanade.

“As long as it’s next to the sea, we know there will be high tide and spring tide during certain times of the year for a maximum of a few hours each time so what happened two days ago was expected,” he said.

He said the lower terrace is open to the public during the day from 7am to 9pm.

“We want the public to appreciate the heritage seawall, which are the blocks of granite stones that were placed there in 1807,” he said.

He said the heritage feature was also important due to its location within the Unesco world heritage site and close proximity to heritage sites such as the Fort Cornwallis, the Town Hall and City Hall.

Meanwhile, George Town Conservation and Development Corporation (GTCDC) advisor Francesco Siravo said the design of the lower terrace is not new and was done in many other cities.

“We have similar situations where you have periodic tides, such as Zadar in Croatia, Texas and we ourselves implemented a similar project in Zanzibar,” he said.

He pointed out that the precautions installed at the lower terrace were more severe compared to other cities.

“Here, there’s a barrier and it’s more difficult for people to overstep the barrier,” he said.

He said the purpose of the lower terrace is to allow people to get closer to the sea.

The RM12.9 million upgraded seawall along with the lower terrace was officially opened to public on May 13.

On May 16 and 17, only the lower terrace portion was flooded due to springtide so it was closed to public during that period as a safety measure.

The lower terrace is now open to public as usual.

The Esplanade seawall upgrade is part of the overall North Seafront project.

The North Seafront is developed by GTCDC, a tripartite partnership between the Penang state government's Chief Minister's Incorporated (CMI), Think City Sdn Bhd and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

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