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Penang goes to court to reinstate approval for reclamation project

Penang goes to court to reinstate approval for reclamation project

Published by Malaysiakini • 04/01/2022 • 05:47 pm

The Penang administration has filed a legal action to re-obtain the initial green light given for the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project.


The state government filed the judicial review leave application at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Dec 17 last year.


The legal action named the Environment Department’s (DOE) appeal board, the DOE’s environmental quality director-general, and the federal government as first, second and third respondents, respectively.


On Sept 8 last year, it was reported that the DOE’s appeal board revoked the approval for the project’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) report.


This was the result of a successful appeal by local community leader Zakaria Ismail, who leads a fisherfolk union in Sungai Batu, located at the southern coast of Penang Island.


His lawyer Meenakshi Raman reportedly said that the DOE’s appeal board held that it was “premature” for the department’s director-general to approve the EIA based on the Penang Structure Plan 2030, even before the plan was officially gazetted.


The department had initially approved the EIA report for the state government project on June 25, 2019. The Penang Structure Plan 2030 was gazetted four months later, on Oct 24, 2019.


It was reported that the state government was mulling the filing of judicial review to reverse the revocation.


According to an affidavit in support of the present legal action, which was affirmed by deputy state secretary (development) Azhar Arshad, the Penang government contended that the first respondent had exceeded its authority when issuing the revocation of approval for the project.


Local community leader Zakaria Ismail


The state government contended that the revocation was made over an “incorrect basis of facts”.


It further claimed that the DOE’s appeal board failed to call the former to submit during Zakaria’s appeal hearing against the project’s greenlight.


“The first respondent had failed to call and hear the submissions of the applicant, who is an aggrieved party by the decision of the first respondent, whereby the applicant has a legitimate expectation to begin the PSR project following the approval of the EIA report on June 25, 2019.


“The first respondent failed to consider that the EIA report’s approval by the second respondent on June 25, 2019, was subject to 72 conditions, whereby the applicant can still be given room to rectify the EIA report without the need for the first respondent to revoke the approval by the second respondent as a whole,” the state government claimed.


Size of 2,550 football fields


Through the current legal action, the Penang administration seeks an order of certiorari to cancel the first respondent’s revocation decision made on Sept 8 last year.


The state is also seeking a mandamus order to direct the first respondent to rehear the preliminary objection proceedings (linked to Zakaria’s appeal), and to call it to submit over the issue.


According to the online cause list, the judicial review leave application is fixed for an online hearing before judge Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh at 9am on Jan 24.


The PSR project involves reclaiming three artificial islands to build industrial zones, tourist attractions, education hubs and housing projects, including affordable housing.


The islands will span 1,821ha, equivalent to the size of about 2,550 football fields.


The state government has promised that the project will be developed sustainably, touting its ability to create jobs and spur the economy.


The project was meant to help fund multi-billion infrastructure projects detailed in the Penang Transport Master Plan.


However, those who are against the project contend that it will jeopardise the livelihood of local fisherfolk and harm marine biology ecosystems.

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