SAM: Make all assessment reports public before starting Penang Hill cable car project

GEORGE TOWN: Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) has urged the state government to make public all assessment reports for the Penang Hill cable car project before starting it.

On Sunday, state Infrastructure, Transport and Digital Committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari said the project was expected to begin in a month or two.

He said the project was expected to cost RM250 million to RM300 million and would be completed in two to three years.

SAM president Meenakshi Raman said the reports that should be made public include the Traffic Impact Assessment, Social Impact Assessment (SIA) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

She said the state government must come up with a local plan before starting the project.

"We urged the state government not to proceed with the cable car project until all assessment reports have been displayed and the local plan done. This is to enable the people to know the effects of the project.

"This project raises many questions, including the EIA report which was approved by the Department of Environment without any publicity and input from the public.

"All these aspects do not comply with the law and all decisions made without public participation before all assessments are made are incorrect."

She said Penang Hill was a sensitive ecosystem, so the approved EIA needed public involvement.

"The state government should be more transparent in this matter.

"The areas that will be affected by this project do not only involve Penang Hill, but also the areas at the bottom, including the Penang Botanic Gardens and the surrounding areas.

"There will be negative impact from tree cutting, traffic, noise and so on. Tree cutting, even if it is minimal, as stated by the state government, will still have a negative impact on the environment.

"SAM hopes that this project will be postponed first until all procedures are carried out properly."

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

She said 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 require public display and public comment.

Under the Second Schedule of the order, "transportation" is listed as a prescribed activity and includes the "construction of new routes or branch line for a mass rapid transport project".

ALSO READ: Wrong to approve Penang Hill cable car project without public participation, says SAM

Following that, the Penang Hill Corporation (PHC) alleged that despite kicking up a fuss, SAM failed to turn up at focus group discussions about the Penang Hill cable car project.

PHC general manager Datuk Cheok Lay Leng said the corporation, its project team and concessionaire had organised focus group discussions as part of the project's SIA requirement to engage with and educate stakeholders, including non-governmental organisations, about the project.

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