Jalan Gangsa residents in shock over highway project

GEORGE TOWN: Thousands of residents in at least 17 highrises here are shocked over a highway project running behind their homes.

Many claimed they were never informed about the project until construction works started soon after the 15th General Election (GE15).

A Block 6 resident at the end of Jalan Gangsa, Greenlane Heights here, H.H. Loh, 70, said the works started behind his apartment back in January.

He said he initially thought it was some private renovation works being carried out, but checks showed no unit was under repair.

"I then thought it was the works from the neighbouring apartments but checks a few days later showed nothing was ongoing.

"I then decided to go floor-by-floor to photograph what was happening and was shocked to find massive machinery for clearing works next to my apartment.

"We were never told about this project, and it is happening in our backyard.

"There is a waterfall behind my place, and I wonder what has happened to it now," he said.

In 2019, the New Straits Times reported that more than one thousand residents of Solok Tembaga in Island Glades were in the dark over the highway project, which was then at the proposal stage, running behind their homes, with some houses just a mere 100m away from the expressway.

They claimed there had been very few engagements between the project developer and the residents, leaving more than 90 per cent of the residents clueless about what was transpiring.

More importantly, they feared for their safety during construction in light of several landslides that hit the state in recent years.

It was reported in January last year that works on the first project under the state's highly ambitious Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) — the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway - Air Itam bypass — had started and achieved eight per cent progress.

The 6km bypass, to be built at the cost of RM851 million, is expected to complete in 2025.

Among the distinctive features of the underpass were that some parts would be elevated, and it would have three short-distance twin land tunnels.

Meanwhile, Kingfisher Series Apartment resident committee secretary Richard Lim, 67, was upset over the highway project.

"We have demanded answers from our elected representatives numerous times, but nothing was forthcoming.

"Suddenly, works have begun just after GE15.

"We are worried about our safety. Massive clearing works are ongoing. Why were we not consulted before the construction works even started?

"I can tell you for sure if it rains heavily, a landslide will hit us," he said, questioning who they are supposed to contact in the event of any emergencies.

Lim said the only peaceful day the residents could enjoy was Sunday; otherwise, daily boulder-hacking works happened from 7am to 7pm.

Lim said, now, cobras were also slithering into their apartment garden, along with monitor lizards and others.

Meanwhile, Greenlane Park residents claimed that hundreds of trees had been cut down behind their apartment since last month.

Residents of All Seasons Park in Air Itam also said the slope behind their condominium had been cleared in the past month, leaving the hill barren.

Meanwhile, several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) met at the Consumers' Association of Penang (CAP) office here, had demanded answers from the authorities.

Penang Heritage Trust's Khoo Salma Nasution said while the project aimed to improve traffic flow in Penang island, concerns about the road project's safety and its potential impact on the environment had been raised.

"One of the main concerns is the safety buffer zone between the roadway and occupied apartment blocks on either side.

"There are also concerns about the erosion and sediment control plan, particularly during the rainy season when mudflows and landslides may occur.

"It is essential that engineering safety measures are taken into account to prevent any mishaps that can endanger the lives of those in the area and cause significant environmental damage," she said.

Referring to the said project, Khoo said the new highway plan appeared to have three road tunnels.

"We would like to know if the hill road project follows the approved Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) or if there have been any variations to the original road plan.

"If there are any variations, we want to know if they have been approved and what measures have been taken to mitigate any potential negative impacts on the environment and surrounding communities," she added.

Penang Forum's Dr Lim Mah Hui said as the project moves forward, it is crucial that the Penang government addresses these concerns and takes steps to ensure the safety of the residents and the environment.

"We urge the state government to provide clear and transparent information about their plans and actions to mitigate potential risks," he added.

Also present were CAP's Mohideen Abdul Kader and Sahabat Alam Malaysia's Meenakshi Raman.

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