NGO's protest at forum an embarrassment for Penang

Joshua Woo


LETTER | The seventh Asia-Pacific Urban Forum (APUF-7) held at the SPICE Convention Centre in Penang this week was attended by 3,000 delegates, including mayors and state leaders from around the country and the world.

It was a gathering of urban planning practitioners to exchange ideas and express commitment to pursue urban sustainable development.

It was very unfortunate that members of non-governmental organisation (NGO) Penang Forum were lobbying their cause to protest against the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) during the three-day event.

They distributed flyers, spoke against PSR, and wore their anti-PSR shirts to make a statement.

They even presented their memorandum to the Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin.

While the event was meant to be progressive and to ensure urban growth towards sustainable development, Penang Forum members were showing their anti-growth, anti-progress, and anti-development side to the international delegates.

Throughout history, countries had reclaimed land from the sea for development.

The Netherlands’ history of reclamation stretches back to more than 800 years ago.

The estimated size of their total reclaimed land is approximately 650,000 hectares.[2] The world’s largest reclaimed land, the Flevopolder in the Netherlands, reclaimed 97,000 hectares from 1955 to 1968.

Japan’s largest industrialised area Tokyo Bay was partially built on reclaimed land with a history of more than 400 years.

During the Edo era, 2,700 hectares were reclaimed over a period of 270 years. Another 6,000 hectares were reclaimed from Meiji era to the present, over 140 years.

Today, there are more than 71,000 hectares of reclaimed land all over Japan.

Dubai’s total reclaimed land exceeds 15,000 hectares. The massive reclamation is part of Dubai’s transformation from an oil-reliant economy into a business, financial and tourism hub.

Singapore’s land area was expanded by 13,800 hectares reclaimed between 1965 and 2015.

Their government noted the need to add another 5,600 hectares of reclaimed land by 2030.

An estimated sum of RM300 billion (S$100 billion) will be spent on reclamation projects for development and adapting to sea-level rise.

At present, the city-state is reclaiming from the sea to build the world’s largest container terminal port.

China, within the short span of three years (2013-2016), had reclaimed 42,000 hectares of land area.

Denmark will begin in 2022 to build nine artificial islands to expand the industrial area near the coast of Copenhagen to attract up to 380 new businesses and create 12,000 jobs.

Even among Malaysian states, reclamation for development had been practised, on-going, and is planned to raise the socioeconomic profile of each state.

To name a few examples:

  • Kelantan’s KB Waterfront at Lembah Sireh
  • Malacca’s RM42 billion Melaka Gateway
  • Pahang’s RM15 billion Kuantan Waterfront
  • Perak’s Marina Island
  • Sabah’s KK Resort City
  • Johor’s Forest City
  • Terengganu’s Sunrise City at Kuala Nerus

All of these are reclamation projects.

Countries around the world and various states in Malaysia are developing and growing through reclamation projects.

Penang has seen its own development and growth through reclamation projects such as the stretch along Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway, Karpal Singh Drive, Straits Quay, Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone, and Weld Quay area.

Many Penangites today work, live, travel, and spend their leisure time on these reclaimed lands.

Even Penang Forum’s own poster boy who allegedly represents the fisherfolks, Nazri Ahmad, is the chairman of Pen Mutiara with a hotel, restaurant, and tourism businesses and is a beneficiary from reclamation.

The accessibility and infrastructure provided on reclaimed land at Batu Maung and Bayan Lepas areas have benefited Nazri's organisation. Pen Mutiara's reported revenue in 2017 was RM42 million.

Nevertheless, Penang Forum members continue to believe that the reclamation project is wrong, that PSR must be rejected.

To Penang Forum, only their own perception of the Sustainable Development Goals through their anti-growth, anti-progress, and anti-development mentality is correct.

Parading such mentality at an international forum is an embarrassment to Penang.

Back in 2010, Penang Forum had also objected against the redevelopment of the then Penang International Sports Arena into today’s SPICE Convention Centre.

How ironic, that they were attending and using this award-winning facility for their own cause now.

The writer is a former councillor of the Seberang Perai City Council.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.