The Forest City mega project was initiated by Johor Sultan Ibrahim Ismail to ensure that the state’s southern region is evenly developed, said project owner Country Garden Pacific View (CGPV).
“This area was spotted by our sultan who in fact wanted to see balanced development,” CGPV executive director Md Othman Yusof told a media briefing in Kuala Lumpur today.
This, he said, is because the focus of current development under the Iskandar masterplan is on the south-eastern side of the state while the south-western side appeared to be left out.
Therefore, Othman said the sultan ( right ) had set out to convince investors to develop an area that was at that time nothing more than sea water.
“We have a sultan who is very visionary... he is the one who urged investors to come in, to convince investors - which is Country Garden - to come to invest in this area,” he said.
The Forest City project is located in the Johor straits in the south-western part of the state and adjacent to the Singapore second link.
Even though Forest City was initially not part of the Iskandar Development Region, Othman said the project has since been accepted to be part of the masterplan on Jan 27 this year.
Therefore, he said the Forest City will enjoy similar benefits such as tax relief to other projects in the Iskandar zone.
CGPV is 66 percent owned by Guangdong-based Country Garden Holdings and 34 percent by Esplanade Danga 88 Sdn Bhd.
In turn, Sultan Ibrahim holds a controlling stake of 64.4 percent in Esplanade Danga 88, while the remaining 20 percent and 15.6 percent are respectively held by state-owned Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor (KPRJ) and Daing A Malek Daing A Rahaman, a member of the royal court of advisers to the Johor sultan.
The project, which initially proceeded without a detailed environmental impact assessment (DEIA), was halted following a protest from Singapore.
However, Othman today announced the recommencement of reclamation works after its DEIA was approved by the Department of Environment.
Despite this, he said CGPV has not received any word from Singapore and any communication would be conveyed through Putrajaya.
Steps to ensure compliance
Following the DEIA, Othman said CGPV has taken various measures to ensure compliance including making sure there was a sufficient buffer to the Singapore border and the Port of Tanjung Pelepas.
"We have also installed double silt curtains facing Singapore," he said, adding that this was on top of daily monitoring of water quality in the area.
Furthermore, he said the Forest City project was broken into four islands to preserve a sea grass area there, thus reducing its original size by approximately 30 percent, from 4,887 acres to 3,425 acres.
As a result, Othman said the gross development value of the project will also drop.
"Initially, with 4,000 acres, the calculated gross development value at that time is RM600 billion.
"But after the 30 percent reduction to 3,425 acres, the gross development value has been brought down to RM450 billion," he said.
Othman also played down concerns that Forest City will lead to an oversupply of properties, stating that its target is not solely locals but an international market.
"If you look at Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, it's all about migration. We have to think the same (for Johor).
"Look at Dubai. If we're talking about the new Dubai city, they managed to build migration within eight years where they attracted a million migration," he said.