Public consultation lacking for Penang infrastructure projects

CAP and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) are concerned that mega infrastructure projects in Penang are being pushed forward without adequate dissemination of information to the public or consulting the public.

Recent press reports state that the Penang government will call for a request of proposals for the construction of the 6.5 km Gurney Drive-Bagan Ajam undersea tunnel, 12 km road connecting Tanjung Bungah-Teluk Bahang, 4.2km Gurney Drive-Lebuhraya Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu bypass and 4.6km Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu-Bandar Baru Air Itam bypass.  These projects are expected to be funded by land swap deals with prospective companies.

These mega projects costing billions of dollars which ultimately have to come from public resources, are meant to speed up motor traffic but not to provide affordable and efficient transport for the public.

The undersea tunnel in addition to the new bridge which is scheduled to be operational shortly, will serve only to bring more motor vehicles into the island contributing to the worsening of traffic congestion.  As it is, there are more cars than people on the island.  So any addition will have serious traffic impacts.

The issue of transparency and openness regarding the proposed projects is of prime importance in the early stages of planning and decision-making. The public should be provided detailed information from the beginning on the potential benefits and impacts of the project and details of the land swap deals so that they can make an informed decision on the need for such mega projects.

We do not want a repeat of the Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) saga. The PORR project proposed by the previous State government was shrouded with secrecy, leading to protest by Penangites, who were concerned of the potential impacts of the project and land swap deals.

Denying public’s right in this regard is a breach of international criterions such as the Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development that advocates access to environmental information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters.

The State government’s bulldozing of the mega infrastructure projects undercuts the opportunity for Penangites to participate in the decision-making process around issues which would affect their life and the environment.  In addition, we have yet to see and comment on the Penang Transportation Master Plan which was commissioned by the State government.

Taking into consideration the State Government’s much publicized CAT (Competency, Accountability, Transparency) policy, we urge the Penang State government to defer the four mega infrastructure projects until proper public consultation and impact studies are tabled.

Press Statement, 5  March 2012