Did EIA report miss non-preventable natural disasters?

16 Jul 2019 / 19:41 H.

IN preparing the EIA on Penang South Reclamation (PSR) did the possibility of the recurrence of a non-preventable natural disaster cross the minds of the consultants?

The 2004 tsunami had affected the whole southern side of the island from Batu Maung, Teluk Tempoyak, Permatang Damar Laut, Sungai Batu, Teluk Kumbar, Gertak Sanggul and right up to Pulau Betong.

A tsunami had never hit the shores of Penang before this. The earthquake that triggered it occurred in Northwest Sumatra. The powerful waves travelled in all directions, including east around the northern tip of Sumatra and on to the shores of Perlis, Kedah, Langkawi; south down the Malacca Straits hitting parts of Northern Penang; further south on the western side of the island and then diffracted east around the “left rear leg of the turtle” that Penang island resembles to hit the southern side of the island (where the developers and state government are planning to make the three 4,500-acre islands) killing and injuring dozens of people and destroying homes.

Could the project proponents, the state government, the EIA consultants and the Department of Environment answer a few questions, please:

» On a planet with an increasing number of natural disasters, is there a guarantee that there will never be a repeat of the 2004 tsunami? If there is a guarantee, who gives that guarantee?

» What “mitigation” measures have the EIA experts recommended to “tame” a similar tsunami and keep the “development” on the three man-made islands safe from the might of nature?

» Can any “mitigation” measures successfully stop tsunami waves at a given point?

The devastating tsunami was caused by an earthquake resulting from the violent movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates which had been pushing against each other and building pressure for a long time. The experts tell us that they continue to do so (pushing against each other) and will likely cause underwater earthquakes and tsunamis in the future.

At best, early warning systems (if kept in good operational condition at all times – of which we don’t have a good record) can allow humans to be forewarned and try to save themselves. But their homes and all else on the land will still be devastated. No insurance company would give protection against a tsunami.

There is a Malay proverb that says “malang tidak berbau” (misfortune does not stink), that is you can never tell when it will strike. You can never tell when another tsunami may happen. And if it does, the three man-made 4,500-acre islands will suffer the most damage, unless developers and their engineers can stop the waves before they reach the islands, or overrun it.

Nature should be respected. The mentality of keeping up with the Joneses (copycats of Singapore’s Marina Bay and Dubai Marina Mall) should be abandoned. Grand buildings, GDP and the like are not the true measure of “development”.

Ravinder Singh

Penang

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