I REFER to the article, “China help for RM40 billion Malacca project” (New Sunday Times, Nov 8), that covered the visit of Chinese Transport Minister Yang Chuantang to Malacca, voicing a US$10 billion investment in the Melaka Gateway project, which will form part of China’s “Belt and Road” initiative.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai is excited at the prospect of China’s involvement in this project.

But what is the status of this Melaka Gateway project? In my letters to the media and to the state and federal Environmental Departments, the Malacca Chief Minister’s office, state Economic Planning Unit and other state and federal Departments, I pointed out the irregularities in the approvals of this project, which was devoid of an Environmental Impact Assessment report.

There are also no reports on hydraulic studies or the Social Impact Assessment (SIA). I questioned how the project could have proceeded without these fundamentals being produced, and without compensation for fisherman.

Then there is also the gross violation of the 700m distance from the shore of sensitive areas, in this case, the Portuguese settlement for island-type reclamation projects, a barometer set in the 1997 macro EIA report. The proposed project is only around 200m away from the shores of the Portuguese settlement.

There are flaws in the design where the alignment of the man-made island is without any functional tidal breaks. This will interrupt the tidal dynamics of the sea fronting the Portuguese Settlement and impede tidal flow. It will result in the Portuguese settlement inheriting a smelly, mud-filled swamp-like dead lagoon.

However, this series of highlights, together with efforts from politicians and others resulted in a stop-work order issued in March. If at worst, that order was issued to allow time for the developer to get the absent prerequisites (EIA, System Impact Assessment hydraulic studies and compensation for the fishermen) done, then there is yet any testimony that accounts to that.

There has been no public gallery on the reports and studies made. There has been no interview by any assigned bodies on SIA studies done on the residents of the Portuguese settlement. There has been no effort by those involved to engage in a dialogue with the Portuguese community.

This development, if it is allowed to go on without the prerequisites done, is sounding the death-knell for our 500-year-old heritage and the obliteration of our people as an ethnic entity. When that happens, the Luso (Portuguese) World Heritage site will lose a vibrant testimony of the east, a stunning blow to Unesco’s World Heritage Series where the Portuguese settlement should be considered as one of its Intangible Heritage sites.

n MICHAEL SINGHO, President, Malacca Portuguese-Eurasian Association, Malacca

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