Do we need another reclamation project?

When we drive along Gurney Drive, we now see a new stretch of land which is reclaimed and almost ready for new developments. We are now expecting a beautiful wharf, seafront park, public space and a highway to ease the traffic in the near future. The Government has announced that Gurney Wharf is expected to complete in August 2021.

In the northern area, there is the on-going Seri Tanjung Pinang reclamation which is initially part and parcel of the Gurney Wharf, which will see the creation of a new little island.

And we know that there is also the controversial mega land reclamation project in the south of the island, known as the Penang South Reclamation which will see a future three man-made islands which is approximately 4,500 acres in size.

Don’t forget the north of Butterworth, where the deal is inked for Rayston Consortium to reclaim about 1,600 acres of land. 

And just when we ended the Movement Control Order (MCO) period, the Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow announced the plans to reclaim lands off Bayan Lepas which stretches from around Queensbay Mall until Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge. Wonder if the Pulau Jerejak will then become part of the land? 

It is surely a hope for many Penangites including myself to see developments in our home state. Who wouldn’t want to live in a developed city that could provide us various infrastructures and facilities that we need? 

But we are currently having Seri Tanjung Pinang, Gurney Wharf and the north of Butterworth still in the process of reclamation which is not completed yet. 

And it is pretty obvious that the State Government is pushing hard for the approval of the Penang South Reclamation.

These huge reclamations which are still on-going and a potential three new islands coming up which nobody knows how it will exactly impact our surroundings, and yet the Government is planning for a new one at Bayan Lepas?

We should wait for the completion of the existing reclamations and let the professionals assess the true impact towards the geography, livelihood of the citizens as well as the environment before we proceed for the next reclamation. We can have Environmental Impact Assessment, Traffic Impact Assessment or whatever papers it can be, I doubt humans will be able to predict an outcome perfectly. We are not God nor fortune tellers. Even Doctor Strange from Marvel predicts 14 million different outcomes of the End Game.

Are we in such a need for land banks in Penang now? If we read the data about Penang’s property for year 2019, it doesn’t seem that we are in extreme need of lands that we need to expedite the land reclamation.

Based on the property market data for 2019 4th quarter, there are 13,391 unsold residential units, 1,154 unsold commercial units and 93 unsold industrial property. While this may not solely justify whether we really need to reclaim lands or not, it can be a good reason for us to understand the property demand, and especially with the Covid-19 pandemic that has caused economical challenges everywhere. I think it is too early to decide on new reclamation projects when we have not completed the current ones.

I take our day-to-day livelihood as an example, how can we determine how much food we need to order for lunch and dinner when we haven’t even finished eating our breakfast? We might have ordered too much or too little by then.

Come to think of it, for the past one decade, Penang has been too focused on mega projects that have been left hanging, in just the planning stage. Penang Transport Master Plan, the Penang South Reclamation and high-end condominiums are the few projects to be mentioned. 

Why don’t we change our focus towards sustainable developments instead? Penang can work to be the frontline state in the battle for climate change and environmental-friendly developments, As I have said before, the green industry is able to drive our economy.

This article is published in Kwong Wah Yit Poh in Chinese dated 30 June 2020.