Penang Hill cable car project: EIA report need not be displayed publicly for comment, says PHC

GEORGE TOWN: Despite kicking up a fuss recently, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) failed to turn up at focus group discussion about the Penang Hill cable car project, the Penang Hill Corporation (PHC) alleged today.

PHC general manager Datuk Cheok Lay Leng said PHC, together with its project team and concessionaire, had organised multiple tailored focus group discussions as part of the project's Social Impact Assessment (SIA) requirement to engage and educate the stakeholders, including non-governmental organisations (NGO) about the Penang Hill cable car project.

He said the project, via its SIA, obtained a broad majority consensus from participating stakeholders.

"Regrettably, SAM had failed to turn up at the focus group discussion.

"PHC stands resolute in addressing and clarifying the points raised in SAM's press statement regarding the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approval for the Penang Hill cable car project.

"We want to stress that the implementation of this project has been carried out in accordance to the law and has received approval from the relevant authorities, fulfilling all compliance requirements.

"This can be evidenced by the thousands of man-hours dedicated to designs and numerous rounds of reviews by certified and specialised engineers, architects, and consultants, including international cable car experts

from Doppelmayr Group, ensuring the compliance with legal and international safety standards," he said.

Last Sunday, SAM said it was wrong for the Department of Environment director-general to approve the EIA report for the Penang Hill cable car project without public display and feedback.

Its president Meenakshi Raman said this was because under the Environmental Quality (Prescribed Activities) (Environmental Impact Assessment) Order 2015, all activities that relate to "transportation" are listed as a Second Schedule activity, which under the order, required public display and public comment.

Elaborating, Cheok said PHC took this commitment seriously and would adhere strictly to it.

He said this included appointing independent experts and checkers to carry out the SIA, EIA and Traffic Impact Assessment (TIA) as well as geotechnical assessment reports, further underscoring PHC's unwavering intent to

maintain transparency and objectivity in all regards of the project.

He said the technical studies on cable car alignment and tower locations were also conducted by Doppelmayr engineers, who collaborated with local engineers on-site.

Notably, the team from Austria has a proven track record, having installed cable cars in multiple UNESCO sites, adding valuable expertise to the project.

Cheok noted that these studies were extensively reviewed before obtaining approvals from the authorities.

An expert team of arborists and the Penang Forestry Department were involved in meticulously identifying every tree earmarked for removal.

Their findings, along with detailed assessments, have been submitted to both the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) and the DoE.

"This ensures transparency and compliance with environmental regulations," he added.

Cheok also pointed to the fact that the Penang Hill cable car project had been classified under First Schedule (not Second Schedule) of the Environmental Quality (Prescribed Activities) (Environmental Impact Assessment) Order 2015 under the category of development in slope area with land clearing less than 50 per cent of an area with slope greater than or equal to 25 degrees but less than 35 degrees.

"In such instances, it mandates that the EIA report does not need to be displayed publicly for comment. The EIA report is available at the Department of Environment's library.

"PHC also wishes to reaffirm that the cable car is not a mass rapid transportation as it is not designed to carry mass numbers of people.

"It does not, under any circumstance, constitute traditional public transportation which typically carries a higher volume of passengers at one go. The capacity of the cable car is 1,000 passengers per hour per direction (PPHPD).

"These figures are by far less than the PPHPD numbers served by other electric modes of public transportations, including monorails, MRT's and LRT's," he stressed.

He also said that the Penang Hill Biosphere Reserve was not the first Unesco biosphere reserve to implement cable cars.

Cable car technology, he noted, had been around for decades and had been globally recognised as a green mode of transportation.

"It has been successfully implemented at numerous Unesco sites worldwide, including World Heritage Sites, Biosphere Reserves and Unesco Global Geoparks.

"The Penang Hill cable car project is one of the most anticipated projects in Penang, and is expected to contribute significantly to the tourism sector in the state, bringing discernible socio-economic benefits to the local residents.

"PHC continually strives to balance economic growth with environmental protection, aiming for a sustainable Penang Hill in line with its status as a Unesco biosphere reserve.

"PHC continues to welcome stakeholder engagement to engender a better understanding of this project," he said.

Most Popular
Related Article
Says Stories