ALIRAN is shocked and disappointed over the granting of a conditional approval for the environmental impact assessment report for the proposed Pan Island Link highway in Penang.
The Department of Environment approved the report with 56 conditions despite many shortcomings highlighted by civil society groups and individuals.
The proposed six-lane highway will be one of the most expensive highways on a per kilometre basis. Reported estimates for the total cost range from RM7.5 billion to RM9.6 billion for the 19.5km route, which works out to RM385 million-RM492 million per kilometre.
The mind boggles at the land deals that will be involved in financing this highway (as well as the equally expensive elevated light rail transit system).
Apart from the exorbitant cost, the PIL will be environmentally disastrous. No amount of “conditions” can mitigate the damage it will inflict on the island.
The highway construction involves blasting on sensitive hill slopes to create four stretches of tunnels totalling 10.2km. The tunnels will pass through fault lines and come close to the Air Itam Dam.
Unfortunately, Penang’s record of monitoring projects along hill slopes has been less than inspiring.
The highway will also degrade two popular parks in Penang – the Penang Youth Park and the Sungai Ara Linear Park.
The chief minister has described the conditional approval as a milestone in addressing the traffic problem. But highways are never a long-term solution for traffic congestion. The reprieve from congestion will only be temporary and traffic jams will return in five to seven years.
Aliran cannot fathom the short-sightedness of the state government over this project. Under the original Halcrow masterplan strategy, the same amount of money to be spent on the Pan Island Link could have been used to create a public transport network for the entire state.
So what is driving such unwise decision-making? Who will bear responsibility for any major disasters, environmental degradation, cost overruns and construction accidents arising from this project?
In the long run, it is the people of Penang and future generations who will bear the brunt of this disastrous decision.
Aliran reiterates its call to the state government to not proceed with this highway project.
Aliran Executive Committee