The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) are concerned to learn that works on three highway projects in Penang would proceed as early as June 2016. The State Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow was quoted by media that the three highways are critical to mitigate traffic congestion.
It is disconcerting that the road projects that may have significant environmental impacts and affect the wellbeing of the people near the routes are being endorsed without proper public consultation.
The three road projects i.e. North Coastal Paired Road Tanjung Bungah-Teluk Bahang; Air Itam-Lebuhraya Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu By-Pass; and Persiaran Gurney–Lebuhraya Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu By-Pass involve routes through residential areas, commercial areas, hills and areas of public interest.
In September 2015, CAP and SAM had voiced objections over the Department of Environment’s (DOE) requirement that the project proponent of the three road packages in Penang Island only needs to submit a Preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). This would mean that the public will not have an opportunity to review the EIA report and provide their feedback.
Our letters to DOE calling for a Detailed EIA report to be submitted to enable public participation remain unanswered. We had also questioned the necessity of the road projects. We need to move people, not vehicles. We need changes in urban and transport planning to ensure reliable, efficient and affordable public transport.
Hence, the Penang Transport Master Plan should not incorporate building more highways that encourages use of more private vehicles. We urge the State to rethink and review its transport plan. Public transport, cycling and walking should be prioritized over cars.
S.M. MOHAMED IDRIS