SEBERANG PERAI, Oct 27 — Penang Opposition leader, Datuk Yusoff Mohd Noor, has submitted objections to a proposed RM2 billion reclamation project that stretches from Bagan Ajam to Telok Air Tawar in north Seberang Perai here.
The Sungai Dua assemblyman, who is also the Umno Tasek Gelugor Division chief, said the proposed project involved reclaiming over 407 hectares of land off the coast of Bagan Ajam here.
He said the Umno division held meetings and discussions with local residents on the public display of an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report on the proposed project.
“We looked through the executive summary of the EIA report and all of the residents and over 20,071 Umno members under this division are against this project,” he said during a press conference after submitting the division’s objections against the project to the Department of Environment (DoE).
The EIA was submitted to the DoE for approval by developer, Rayston Consortium (Butterworth) Sdn Bhd (RCSB), and it was on public display for a month, with today being the last day for the public to submit any feedback on or objections to the project.
Yusoff said there was no shortage of land in north Seberang Perai; hence, land reclamation off the coast would not be urgent.
“According to the Seberang Perai Local Plan, the city council has planned an overall development plan for existing land as there is still plenty of land in this district so there is no need to spend RM2 billion to reclaim land off the coast,” he said.
The project was initially planned in 1999 but delayed until a second agreement for the reclamation was signed between the Penang state government and RCSB in 2018.
While Yusoff admitted that the project was initially approved by the then Barisan Nasional state government, the current Pakatan Harapan administration had renewed the agreement in 2018.
“They can cancel the project. They do not have to go ahead with it just because it was approved by the previous state government,” he said.
He said a mixed development project is planned for the reclaimed land and this will include commercial, retail and residential buildings, including high-rises.
He added that it would be a matter of national security if commercial or residential high-rise buildings allow people to spy on the air force base in Butterworth.
“We must remember it is located next to the Royal Air Force Base in Butterworth that has been there since 1941 so this means if there are high-rises built nearby, it will threaten the security of the air force base,” he said.
He said the project will also negatively impact the traditional villages and residential areas along the beachfront.
“Although the EIA report stated that the reclaimed land will be on the same level as the existing land, there is a possibility that it could also lead to flash floods, especially during high tide and heavy downpours, he said.
Environmentally, Yusoff said the project could destroy the mangrove ecosystem around Telok Air Tawar up to Kuala Muda and affect the habitat of over 120 species of migratory birds.
He said the Seberang Perai City Council envisions turning the city into a low carbon city from 2022 onwards but this will not be achievable if the reclamation project is allowed to proceed.
“This proposed reclamation project involved the dumping of about 41 million metric tons of sand and 680,000 metric tons of rocks into the sea,” he said.
He said the proposal was to excavate the sand from the northern coast of Perak and this will also negatively affect the fishery industry in Perak.
“This will affect the livelihood of over 300 fishermen along Bagan Ajam itself,” he said.
He said Umno Tasek Gelugor Division will be holding peaceful demonstrations with the fishermen along the coast against the project.
“We will also be submitting our objections to the project to the environmental minister, prime minister and defence minister,” he said.
He called on the DoE to reject the EIA for the project and cancel the project entirely.
Earlier, Yusoff handed over the objections to Penang DoE director Sharifah Zakiah Syed Sahab at the DoE office in Kepala Batas here.
Sharifah said the DoE will take into account all feedback and objections regarding the EIA of the project before any decision is made.