GEORGE TOWN: The Penang government today made public the 72 conditions imposed by the Department of Environment (DoE) in the approval of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the proposed Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project in the southern part of the island.
Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said among the important items were for the state government to implement offset programmes as well as an environment management plan (EMP) to minimise any impact arising from the reclamation project.
He said the offset programmes were to address any permanent losses as a result of the reclamation project, which would be part of the Penang Offset Masterplan.
He said this included, among others, artificial reefs, the fishery aggregating device (FAD), replanting of mangroves, releasing of fish fries, eco-engineering structure, providing funds for study and research and other offset programmes recommended in the EIA report.
“Detailed technical studies on the offset programmes need to be conducted and submitted to the relevant technical agencies for comments prior to the implementation.
“An offset programme implementation committee will also be established to monitor the implementation of the programmes. Periodic monitoring and audit of the programmes will be carried out, with reports on the findings to be submitted to the committee.
“It is compulsory for the state government to carry out the offset programmes with technical advice from the relevant agencies, including the Fisheries Department, to manage the impact on fisheries resources and fishermen.
“This is a very tedious and ongoing process but I think there is no alternative but for us to comply with all the conditions,” he told a press conference at his office in Komtar.
Present was SRS Consortium project director Szeto Wai Loong. SRS Consortium is the project delivery partner for the RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).
The PSR project, among others, is to fund the PTMP project.
Chow said other measures imposed by the DoE include the setting up of a fishermen taskforce for preparing an exit plan of mitigating measures as well as a one-stop fishermen’s service centres to handle complaints related to the project implementation, both of which the Penang government had put in place since 2016.
He said the state was also told to implement green river programmes, conduct detailed hydraulic monitoring, perform regular maintenance dredging, maintain navigation routes for fishermen, build coastal protections and enhancement, conduct study on the shrimp migration routes, construct fishermen jetties, take up project insurance to protect life, property and environment in the event of accidents during the project implementation, install best management practices (BMPs) and effective control measures to reduce pollution and complaints in affected areas.
“With regards to the 72 conditions, there are mitigation measures proposed in the EIA report by the project proponent and have been adopted by DoE as part of the conditions as well,” he said.
He said 56 out of the 72 conditions were general conditions related to the project, which were imposed on other similar projects prior to this, such as compliance, description of determined activities, project concept and design, written notification/written approval/licence, land disturbing-pollution prevention and mitigation measures, land reclamation and dredging activities control, control of dredging activities/offshore sand mining/land or river sand mining, air quality control and monitoring, water quality control and monitoring, noise and vibration control and monitoring, hydrography monitoring (for land reclamation/marine mining), waste management that includes scheduled waste, solid waste disposal, chemicals and petroleum, transportation and storage of scheduled waste and control and preventive measures.
“The rest of the conditions are specifically on the EMP, which stipulates that the EMP shall be prepared in accordance with the format and requirement stipulated and to be submitted to the state DoE for approval prior to the project’s commencement.
“Under Section 33A of the Environmental Quality Act 1974, clause 63 and 64 specifies that an environmental audit must be conducted every four months during earthwork and construction phases and annually (if required) during the operation phase.
“The roles and duties of the environmental officer (EO) has been spelt out clearly in the conditions to ensure the implementation of all the control measures and compliance to the EIA approval conditions,” he added.
Asked what was the most challenging condition to fulfil out of the 72 imposed, Szeto replied that all were equally challenging.
“But one major difference for this project is the implementation of the Penang offset Masterplan programme, which is the first of its kind, with the setting up of a monitoring committee.
“Also, before we start work, we have to come up with the EMP, which needs to be approved by the state DoE, before the implementation,” he said.
He also explained that sand to be used for the PSR may come from two sources -- Port Klang in Selangor and Perak -- with the sand in Perak being dredged more than 20 nautical miles from the shore, which is under federal jurisdiction. EIA approval must be sought before the sand can be dredged.
On the offset programmes, Szeto said they would be done throughout the project.
Pressed on whether this was the most complex reclamation the country has ever seen due to the conditions imposed, he said it was most complex in terms of the conditions imposed.
“Construction-wise, it is not complex. But to comply with the conditions, those are very detailed and complex," he said, adding that it took them two years before they obtained EIA approval.
Szeto said it would take them six to nine months to come up with the EMP, which Chow agreed was a reasonable time frame.
“The EMP is an even more important document than the EIA. The EIA is just a conceptual study but the EMP details how we are going to implement it,” said Chow.
Chow was also asked to comment on Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Salahuddin Ayub's call for the Penang government to gazette a fishery conservation zone along the coastline from Pulau Betung to Teluk Bahang, including the seaside up till one nautical mile, as well as gazetting the middle bank as a fisheries protected area.
“There can’t be two contradicting things existing together. That is why the offset programmes are necessary to offset whatever losses as a result of the project.
“Since we are already proposing to implement the reclamation, I don't think at the same time we can gazette the place as a fishing area. It is beyond logic.”
On whether he would meet with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, he said it was clear from the latter's statement that he was not against the reclamation project and only wanted the best for the fishermen.
“Nevertheless, we will arrange for a meeting with him. He had sought a comprehensive briefing on the project this morning. I have asked my officers to arrange for a date for us to meet.”
Chow also reiterated that the Penang government is open to any issues arising from the project.
The reclamation project, which covers 1,800ha of the sea in the southern part of Penang island, will be used to fund the state’s ambitious RM46 billion PTMP.
The Penang fishermen have been opposing reclamation since 2015.
Environmentalists opposing the PSR project have argued that such a project would adversely impact the livelihood of fishermen and the marine ecosystem in the southern part of the island.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had vowed that action would be taken if it was true that the PSR project has a negative impact on the public and environment.