Penang needs a more dynamic 'green' policy
The suggestion by the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) to relocate 20 trees and replant the remaining 44 in order to widen Jalan Masjid Negeri in George Town is a balancing act between consumer demands and the promotion of a sustainable environment.
MPPP's proposal to address the state's traffic congestion although necessary, will disrupt the air quality in the area as earlier expressed by the Consumers Association of Penang.
Penang PAS Youth consumer and environmental bureau believes that such incidences should not be repeated.
MPPP needs to implement a more dynamic landscape policy so that no trees would be sacrificed in road and traffic system upgrading projects.
In Thailand, trees are planted in the middle of a two-way street so that necessary efforts to widen the road in future will not sacrifice the area's natural air-conditioning system.
We believe such dynamic policies are available in the MPPP's town planning department as they have launched a 'Green City' project in September by planting 180 trees at the centre of the 1.4km Datuk Keramat Road.
The project was launched by state executive councillor for local government and traffic management Chow Kon Yeow.
If MPPP were proactive and carries out a landscape transformation policy before there are proposals to widen any road, such differences of opinions (as can be seen in CAP's protest along Jalan Masjid Negeri) will not recur.
In another aspect, MPPP's suggestion to widen the main roads to the Island is to prepare for the increase in traffic when the second Penang bridge opens next year.
The intention is good but those steps are not the best of policies.
The construction of the second Penang Bridge actually encourages more vehicles to enter the state.
Traffic congestion will worsen if the proposal to build the 6.5km undersea tunnel along Gurney Drive and Bagan Ajam also materialises.
This is why the Penang government needs to strengthen the public transport system so that it becomes the consumer's first choice when choosing a mode of transport.
Generally, public and factory workers currently choose to take a free ride to their work places by travelling on the Penang Hop On Free Central Transit (CAT) and Bus Express Shuttle Transit (BEST).
This is a good move which must be encouraged with more dynamic policies.
Additionally, the MPPP or the state government should popularise the ‘home garden' culture where houses become like gardens with their own trees.
Those involved in the initiative should be given incentives like car-park coupons to encourage more people to take part in sustainable behaviour like these and will not cost the MPPP much in expenditure.
Other than improving the air quality of the city, these policies and initiatives will together hasten the realisation of Penang's "Clean, Green, Healthy and Safe" campaigns - efforts of the state government for the past four years.
Actually, the country or an advanced state must implement such dynamic policies to cater for the needs of future generations.
But a country or a developing state will implement policies to resolve the problems raised by the rakyat.
FIRDAUS MOHD ALI is Penang PAS Youth consumer and environmental bureau committee member, and its former chief.