Turn Little India into a vehicle-free zone

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CAP congratulates the Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) for granting permits to the traders to set up canopies and carry out their business freely for Deepavali at Little India, Georgetown, Penang. In fact MPPP should turn Little India into a permanent vehicle-free-zone. This will enable people to walk around freely and safely while shopping. It will be a paradise for tourists and the government encourages that.

With each Deepavali the canopies have increased in size and numbers. Even petty traders have joined the bandwagon. This time around it has almost reached the maximum along certain roads like Market Street, where almost all parking bays have been taken up by canopies on both sides of the roads, forcing vehicles to be parked haphazardly and illegally at road junctions, alleys and service roads.  

The canopies on both sides take up two thirds of the width of the roads, leaving only about one third of the space for shoppers, tourists and vehicles passing through, risking the safety of people and property. Should there be a fire, it would be catastrophic, as even fire engines may have difficulty coming in.

Therefore, it would be advantageous for shoppers, tourists and traders if the area is turned into a vehicle-free zone. Vehicles coming in to load and unload goods may be allowed at scheduled times during the day. Private vehicles may park at the multi-storey car parks at Beach Street and Union Street and along other roads on the periphery of the vehicle-free zone. Elderly people may be dropped off or picked up at the nearest point and they may use trolleys to transport their goods.

The whole length of Market Street along with Penang Street, King Street and Queen Street, extending up to and including China Street should be vehicle-free zone.

Press Statement – 30 October 2013

Sheer waste of water due to leaking tank, Lengkok Mahsuri Flats, Bayan Baru, Penang

CAP is very disappointed that the leaking water tanks on the rooftop of several blocks in Lengkok Mahsuri has yet to be repaired and this has caused large amounts of water to be wasted.

The problem of leaking water tanks has been going on since five years ago, causing water to spill out all the time and more overflow occurs at night. The residents and CAP had complained to the relevant authorities but till now the problem has not been solved.

CAP’s latest investigation found that five blocks in Lengkok Mahsuri face the problem of leaking water tanks. We are concerned that millions of litres of water would have been wasted over the years because the management and authorities had not seriously addressed the problem.

Recently, in early September 2013, CAP had forwarded the complaint to the Chief Minister of Penang, State Secretary, Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Air Negara (SPAN), Penang Development Corporation and South West District Officer.

CAP had also lodged a complaint to the authorities in 2011.  SPAN Northern Region office had investigated and found that the tank was indeed leaking and had advised the management of the flats to repair the leakage to prevent water wastage.

Former State Assemblyman for Pantai Jerejak YB Sim Tze Tzin has also met the residents in Lengkok Mahsuri regarding this problem. According to SPAN, in a letter to CAP dated 27 May 2011 this problem was expected to be solved after allocation is received from the Penang State Government and channeled to the Management Committee to carry out the repair work.

CAP is frustrated that proper action had not been taken although solutions were proposed since long ago.  CAP urges the buildings management committee takes immediate action to resolve the problem.

The call for consumers to save water would remain meaningless if water leakages like these are neglected and action not taken to plug the leak.  

Press Release – 20 September 2013

Address problems in Pantai Merdeka immediately

CAP urges the Kedah state government to pay serious attention and take immediate action to address the problem of cleanliness and dire state of basic amenities in a picnic area in Pantai Merdeka near Sungai Petani.

CAP’s survey revealed that the area is contaminated with wastewater and all kinds of waste. The equipment in the children’s playground was also in dilapidated condition and dangerous.   

The waste in the drains is not only an eyesore but the situation worsens when water flow is blocked and remains stagnant because of the defective and narrow drainage system.

The floor of the food court here is slippery and dirty as some of the sinks are leaking and yet to be repaired. The condition here is not only affecting the appetite of visitors at the food stalls but it can also affect the safety of those passing by.

These problems should not occur because the traders here pay rental amounting from RM50.00 to RM150.00 monthly to the Local Authority.

Most despairing is that some equipment on the children’s playground at Merdeka Beach is broken and rusty. CAP is concerned and believes that if the play-things are not repaired, the safety of the children who play here would be threatened. Playground equipment that is broken, rusty and sharp can cause injury.

CAP is disappointed that although Pantai Merdeka is one of the famous picnic spots in the country and visited by many, the basic amenities and surroundings in this area were neglected, poorly maintained and not given adequate attention.

In view of this, CAP calls on the Kedah state government, Majlis Perbandaran Sungai Petani (MPSPK) and Majlis Daerah Kuala Muda (MDKM) to investigate and take immediate action to resolve the problems here.

Press Statement – 18 September 2013

Potholes a danger to motorists

CAP calls on the Penang State Government to immediately act on the problem of potholes in Penang Island especially after continuous rainfall over the last few days.

In a survey carried out by CAP, we found that there are a number of roads in Penang that pose a threat to motorists especially at night. Some of the potholes were very deep.

The contractors who have been given the contract to construct, up-keep and maintain roads should be taken to task. The repeated occurrence of potholes only goes to show that the work carried out is shoddy. Contractors must be made to carry out weekly inspections on all roads.

CAP hopes that the state government and all other related agencies give serious attention and take necessary action immediately to overcome this problem.  

This is a very serious issue as the safety of Malaysian road-users is involved. Expediency at the cost of human lives is never acceptable.

Press Statement – 12 September 2013

Abort tunnel vision

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CAP would like to reiterate most emphatically its opposition to the latest mega-project  proposed by the Penang state government to resolve the state’s traffic problem. The project comprises a 6.5km undersea tunnel from Gurney Drive to Bagan Ajam in Butterworth,  a 4.2km Pesiaran Gurney-Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway bypass, a 4.6km Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway-Bandar Baru Air Itam bypass, and a four-lane 12km road linking Tanjung Bungah with Teluk Bahang.

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In justifying the construction of the roads, the argument that has been advanced is that they will expand the existing network of roads. By dispersing the traffic, they will thereby, it is argued, relieve the pressure on the existing roads and thus open up more space for public transport and pedestrian walkways.

The argument is an attractive one, but unfortunately it is misconceived. Countless studies have proved conclusively that building more roads (or even widening existing roads) is only a short-term solution as the new roads will invariably attract more traffic and soon the roads will be congested again. In the case of Penang, with 100,000 new vehicles hitting the roads every year, the culmination of such a process will be sooner than anyone can anticipate.

As for the undersea tunnel, it has been suggested that it will further ease the trans-channel traffic. But this blithely ignores the fact that this will result in more motorized traffic on the island and create more congestion on the island’s roads. The new roads can only afford temporary relief to this situation. What is often overlooked is that the island too has a limited carrying capacity at any given time and no consideration is given to this fact.

Moreover, if the concern is to alleviate the cross-channel traffic, the fact is that the second Penang Bridge is not even operational yet. Given that its impact on traffic is yet to be seen, one wonders why the Chief Minister is in such haste to push through the construction of an undersea tunnel which is beset with risks and adverse effects.

The terms under which the project has been agreed to are also controversial. Apart from receiving a 30 year concession period, the developers will also benefit from 110 acres of reclaimed land as payment. This land will appreciate tremendously in value in the coming years. Penangites will not benefit from this added value but the developers will, many times over their initial cost of construction.

But perhaps the Chief Minister is right after all to conclude that a third road link will be necessary. After all, who should know better the impact of his own transport policies than the Chief Minister himself?  In view of the fact that the whole thrust of his policies is directed to prioritizing  private motorized transport over public transport, it won’t be long  before congestion begins to build up on the second bridge. In short, a third road link will be necessary because the Chief Minister is intent on pursuing policies which will create the very gridlock requiring relief.

There are also other disturbing features about this package of projects. The payoff for the consortium undertaking the project is 110 acres of reclaimed land. By agreeing to this, the Penang government has given no consideration to the consequences of further land reclamation along Penang’s coast even though the adverse consequences of earlier reclamation projects have clearly blighted the island’s coastline. Such a reckless indifference to the environment is shocking, to say the least.

Questions have also been raised about the financial viability of those undertaking the construction. However, more important is the safety of such tunnels. The 1996 Chunnel fire shows the limits of human technical ingenuity and engineering skill. The Chunnel – the underwater tunnel beneath the English Channel which links England and France – was regarded as the eighth wonder of the world and had been exhaustively tested for safety, including extensive modelling and full-scale fire tests, before it was opened up to traffic. Yet when the fire broke out, experts were hard put to explain how the fire occurred. In Malaysia, there was a reported vehicle fire occurring every month, for 8 consecutive months in 2012. Such an incident could turn into a national disaster if it happened in the proposed undersea tunnel. In addition to inherent risk, given the absence of a well-developed culture of safety in our society, is it not a grave risk to embark on such a project? Moreover, questions have also been raised as to the expertise and experience of those undertaking the project in building undersea tunnels. While they may well have undoubted expertise and   skills in other types of construction, the real question is their expertise in the specific field of undersea tunnels.

While we are mindful of recent statements that the state government is intent on going ahead with the project, we strongly urge them to reconsider the whole issue. Such a reconsideration must involve a rethinking of the whole basis of the current transport policy which privileges the owners of private motor vehicles at the expense of public transport commuters. All talk of a “Penang Paradigm” is meaningless without this paradigm shift.

Media Statement – 18 March 2013