THE Penang state government has bandied about the supposedly “72 conditions” imposed by the Department of Environment for the approval of the EIA for the Penang South reclamation project.
The perception created for the consumption of the public is that the approval did not come easy; that every conceivable negative impact was considered and measures to mitigate its impact on the environment were put down as “conditions” to be complied with when the project is implemented.
Are the so-called “72” conditions really specific to the reclamation project?
Scrutinising the “conditions”, one will see that they are actually common rules and procedures that developers of various types of projects are required to follow. Nothing extraordinary; nothing special. The letter of approval just draws attention to the general rules that need to be observed.
Some examples of the general rules, touted by the state government as “conditions” are as follows:
» All statements and pledges in the EIA must be adhered to
» This project must comply with all provisions of the Environment Quality Act
» This project is subject to “Perintah Kualiti Alam Sekeliling”
» Approval of this EIA is limited to the reclamation of three islands totalling 4,500 acres.
» The location of this project is as shown in the plan on page ... of the EIA
» Any changes to the plans in the EIA must get prior approval
» Wheels of the vehicles going in the project area must be washed before they drive out onto public roads.
The actual conditions specific to this project are the four conditions set by the Ministry of Agriculture, they are:
1. “Gazetting a fishery conservation zone along the coastline from Pulau Betung to Teluk Bahang including the seaside up till one nautical mile. Gazetting middle bank as a fisheries protected area.
2. “Modifying the island’s shape by providing a subtidal zone migration route of at least one to two metres deep during low tide with adequate width at the southern part of the island to allow large white prawns and Sua Lor prawns to migrate from the eastern side of Penang to its western side.
3. “The Penang state government must conduct two studies – the ontogenetic migration of Peanaus merguiensis and Metapenaeus ensis and the impact of dredging and reclamation of PSR on the two prawn populations and their fisheries (one-year cycle complete) and;
4. “Noise pollution impact on fish due to dredging and the reclamation of PSR.”
So the Penang government should not beat its drums about the 72 conditions as they are nothing special but mere reminders as to the rules and procedures that exist in the rule books and need to be followed not just by the developers of this reclamation project (which hopefully will not get final approval), but by developers of other projects also.
Penangites should not be made to believe that the 72 conditions are so stringent and specific to this project. It is eyewash to make the general public “feel good” and approve of the project. It’s not correct to label the 72 reminders “conditions”.