Penang Island is facing environmental rape as it faces widespread damage because of uncontrolled development resulting in barren hill slopes and erosion taking place at hillsides that are being developed. The rapid development in Penang has brought a toll to the island’s environment and disdain to residents who have to face more environmental deterioration and traffic congestion.
The latest development is the proposed Escape Theme Park Resort near the Teluk Bahang Forest Reserve, Penang National Park and the Teluk Bahang Dam. The 12.14ha land for the development of the theme park belongs to the Penang Water Corporation and has been leased out to Sim Leisure Consultants.
What astonishes us is the rationale for having this theme park, which among others aims to create a water park inside the forest with wave pools, slides, river and play area. Why do we need this man-made park when the natural environment is out there for nature lovers and adventure seekers? Why do we need to turn the forest into a “carnival-like attraction”?
Are tourists flocking to Penang to visit theme parks or is it our tropical rainforest, beaches, cultural heritage and food that are luring in both domestic and foreign tourists?
The theme park is acclaimed to be a prototype project. Whether it is a model or mockery, it remains to be seen and in the process our natural environment should not become the victim.
According to news report, the project developer claimed that the Penang Department of Environment had declared the project to be eco-friendly and does not need an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report to be done. In view of the proximity of the proposed theme park to three environmentally sensitive areas and water catchments, this project warrants an EIA to be done, although it is not required under the EIA Order.
The EIA is necessary for the public to make an informed decision on whether the project would have an impact on the environment and water resources. Neither do we have a comprehensive traffic impact assessment to gauge how this project would affect the overall traffic condition in Penang. The answer to traffic congestion in this part of the island is not to build more roads or widen the existing road as it would further weigh down the already deteriorating environment here.
We need more effective mechanisms to plan, monitor and control development to curb environmental degradation in Penang. The people of Penang should be consulted in matters of development such as this theme park.
In view of the Penang governments’ Competency, Accountability and Transparency policy, this public participation mechanism is paramount. The Penang government should walk its talk and listen to the people.
The Consumers’ Association of Penang and Sahabat Alam Malaysia are not in favour of the Escape Theme Park Resort project in Teluk Bahang. The State and Penang Water Corporation should not be leasing out our natural heritage for the sake of economic gains from tourism.
CAP and SAM urge the State Government to scrap this project and take measures to restrict development here, to protect and regenerate the natural environment.
Letter to the Editor - 21 November 2011