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Penang South Island mitigation, green initiatives, and social welfare plan will control reclamation impact


Penang South Island mitigation, green initiatives, and social welfare plan will control reclamation impact


14 MAY 2023

Penang South Island mitigation, green initiatives, and social welfare plan will control reclamation impact

Claims by certain quarters that the Penang South Island (PSI) development will impact the local fisheries, fishermen and nearby states have regrettably continued to be exaggerated.


The Penang Infrastructure Corporation (PIC) wishes to address some of these issues again to set the record straight.


Fishing will continue


The PSI development will not stop fishermen from fishing or threaten food security because the fishing zone for southern Penang Island’s coastal fishermen is vast, which is up to 8NM (14.8km) from the coastline.


The local fishermen usually catch fish in areas located beyond the project site. We received this information from local fishermen and we verified this by conducting physical boat count and by using satellite images that captured the movements of fishing boats in the southern Penang Island waters.


As we could confirm that most of the fishing activities took place much further from the reclamation site, the State Government decided to give fishermen who owned boats with larger ones, equipment like powerful engines, sonar, GPS and net haulers to make it safer and more convenient for the fishermen.


The new boats and equipment are part of the project’s Social Impact Management Plan (SIMP) for southern Penang Island fishermen. The plan also offers financial aid, new jetties with proper facilities, training, job and business opportunities, education support for their children, a home ownership scheme and a 250m wide navigation channel that enables fishermen to go to sea regardless of the tide.


A group of fishermen, who registered early for the SIMP, had received the RM500 advance payment of financial aid, new boats and engines, and attended seafarer training. Many of them welcome these opportunities, especially the bigger boats, and they are waiting for more SIMP benefits to be rolled out after the EMP is approved.


It is illogical to claim that the reclamation of a 2,300-acre island will wipe out the whole area’s fisheries sector. The fish and shrimp will still be in the sea, and fishing will continue.


No widespread impact


It is an exaggeration to say that a reclamation project in Penang waters will impact places as far as Kedah and Selangor. Mitigation measures will confine the impact to the project site based on the assessment provided in the approved Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report.


Based on the EIA report, the reclamation will be done in phases, which means the impact will only occur gradually and be controlled at the work site through continuous monitoring and careful implementation of mitigation measures such as perimeter bunds and silt curtains under the watchful eyes of the relevant authorities, namely the Department of Environment (DOE).


The hydraulics study, which was approved by the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) last year, has shown that even without any rigorous implementation of mitigation measures, the sediment dispersion will be limited close to the reclaimed area. The silt curtains will further prevent the dispersion of sediment. The PSI layout was also optimised to ensure minimum impact on the surrounding environment.


Even so, we will closely monitor the situation when work is underway. Part of the approval was a condition by the DID to monitor the impact on the Penang Island shoreline and report to the department periodically for action to be taken, if necessary.


There will also be constant monitoring of water quality, including a 24-hour real-time monitoring of total suspended solids (TSS). The monitoring system will be linked to the Environmental Department (DOE), which would closely monitor the reclamation works for enforcement.


The Project Proponent has set the turbidity limit way below the limit set by DOE. If the turbidity reading approaches the set limit, work will stop for necessary actions to be taken. Mitigation measures will also be reviewed for continuous improvements.


Meanwhile, to prevent the illegal dumping of sand or disposal of dredged materials, all work vessels and barges will be installed with the Dredging and Dumping Management System (DDMS), Weight Recording Equipment and Vessel Tracking Monitoring System with live tracking data.


As mentioned in the approved EIA report, sand will only be sourced from concessions with valid EIA approval and sand mining licence.


Currently, these proposed concessions are situated upwards by 30km away from the coast of Perak, which is more than double the distance from the stipulated eight nautical miles (14.8km) of artisanal fisheries’ zone.


They are in deep waters measuring at least 50m in depth where only 2m layer of sand will be mined, contrary to critics’ claim that the mining of sea sand will create massive holes in the seabed.


Therefore, we stress that claims of the PSI project impacting the waters and coastline of southern Kedah, northern Perak and even Selangor are unfounded and without scientific basis.


Ecology recovery and carbon reduction


The project is also implementing the PSI Ecology Offset Masterplan (PEOM), which aims to minimise the impact on marine life and create new habitats that boost the sustainability of the fisheries sector.


The PEOM includes planting mangroves, building eco-friendly shorelines, releasing fish and shrimp fries, deploying artificial reefs and fish aggregating devices, providing funds for marine-related research, and others.


Silicon Island will also feature a mangrove forest. We stress the importance of mangroves because they are good for carbon sequestration, which helps PSI achieve its carbon reduction goals.


Detractors have also been attacking PSI for the carbon it would release, citing the National Physical Planning Council’s (NPPC) forecast in 2019 that PSI would emit 3.2 million tonnes of carbon annually. But they neglect to mention the NPPC’s recommendation for PSI to reduce carbon emissions by 40%.


Penang’s response to the NPPC’s advice was to have a Low-Carbon City Framework (LCCF) put in place for PSI to ensure its development would adhere to low-carbon principles. PSI’s city planning and the steps taken as part of the LCCF are implemented in the Urban Development Policy (UDP), which is now being drafted to make sure all measures are in place and in compliance with Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) policies to guide PSI development.


PSI’s urban planning design, which includes various green initiatives like using renewable energy, green mobility and others, managed to exceed the prescribed NPPC target to hit 45%. In February, this earned the PSI’s urban design the 5-diamond recognition from the Malaysian Green Technology and Climate Change (MGTC) at the Low Carbon Cities 2030 Challenge (LCC2030).


To explain to those who have criticised the recognition given to PSI, the MGTC followed a systematic process in its assessment, which addressed issues on energy, water, waste, mobility, greenery, and operation emissions reduction measures as compared to business as usual.


The MGTC took note of the carbon sequestration from the green spaces in the PSI master plan. For instance, 17% of Silicon Island – higher than the standard requirement of no less than 10% – will have green, excluding green coverage on private land that will be sold. This unprecedented allocation of land will likely make the development one of the greenest in Malaysia.


PSI critics also seemed to allude to a carbon-neutral or zero-carbon plan when the LCC2030 assessment was on reducing carbon emissions in the project compared to business as usual. Many cities in the world like Hong Kong, New York, Paris, and London have pledged to work towards carbon neutrality through the adaptation process. The process will take years, and PSI’s MGTC accreditation is just the first step in its aspiration toward carbon neutrality.


Future cutting-edge technologies including new sustainable designs and measures like the mandated Green Building Index (GBI) certification for individual plot developments, which looked at green building materials, energy and resource-efficient fittings and fixtures, greenery, and design innovations will also aid PSI achieve its carbon reduction commitment.


Better future for all


PSI is designed with the future in mind, and that means it must be adaptable to climate change and other challenges that may come. This is why the PSI development is important to the state’s economy.


The project does not spell the end for any group or community. It is a new beginning for Penang. It is a project that will give us the opportunity to build a better and more economically resilient future for the generations that come after us. Now, we are closer to achieving it than ever before.


After eight years of effort put into obtaining the relevant approvals and designing the island, Penang also owes itself the responsibility to see this project through.




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