Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) said it was never in favour of the proposed 1,821ha reclamation project near Permatang Damar Laut. Pix by Shahnaz Fazlie Shahrizal

GEORGE TOWN: Environmental-based non-governmental organisations (NGO) are adamant that the proposed Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project should not be implemented in the state.

They claimed the reclamation project would indeed have negative effect on the environment, and also affect the livelihood of the fishing communities near the project site.

As such, they lauded Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's assurance that the project would not be approved if it was not environmentally friendly and if it had negative impact on the people.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) said it was never in favour of the proposed 1,821ha reclamation project near Permatang Damar Laut.

Its president S.M. Mohamed Idris stressed that the project would indeed have negative effect on the environment and also the fishing communities near the project site.

Referring to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report, Idris said it concurred that there would be an impact on the ocean food chain and the fishing industry due to total loss of mudflats.

"Loss of coastal habitat due to this proposed reclamation project is a major environmental blow," he told the New Straits Times today.

His statement came in the wake of Najib's announcement on the matter during a visit to Balik Pulau on Saturday.

Najib had also said that the reclamation project should be environmentally friendly and other alternatives which could save the people's money should be considered first.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Nature Society Penang branch advisor D. Kanda Kumar, who echoed the same sentiment, stressed that there was no need for the reclamation to fund the state government's highly-ambitious multi-billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).

Kanda said that the Penang government should look into cheaper alternatives for the proposed railway system for the PTMP.

He said that many developed countries were moving to on-ground railway systems as it was cheaper in terms of construction and maintenance, hence the state government should follow suit as well.

"The state government had proposed for an elevated railway, for a major part of the rail system. This itself is expensive as they need to build special terminals.

"In comparison, they should go with on-ground railway system. Russia, for example, is implementing this too. Easily accessible for the people and also as fast as the elevated ones," he told the NST when contacted.

Kanda stressed that the requirements laid-out by Najib were not a straight 'no' to the reclamation as the state government could go ahead with the project if it fulfilled the requirements.

The RM46 billion PTMP project was proposed to reduce traffic congestion. It included light rail transit (LRT), mass rapid transit (MRT) and several highways.

The overall project would take 50 years to be completeed.

Kanda said that the PTMP could be irrelevant at that time, considering the current advancement of transportation technologies.

"We are seeing automated cars...there might be far better transport system by the time the whole PTMP is implemented," he said.

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