(Penang, Wednesday): Mass media reports on Monday that the Department of Environment (DOE) will be studying the 14 written comments from organisations and the public on the EIA report of Kedah’s mammoth coastal reclamation project is quite perplexing.
Why should the DOE continue to study the EIA report for the RM30 billion Kedah land reclamation project, described as the largest project of its kind in the world, if it had been indefinitely deferred like other mega-projects?
What is significant is that the RM30 billion Kedah reclamation project had never been specifically mentioned as having been deferred by any Federal Minister and it was conspicuously omitted by the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in his first 1998 Budget speech in Parliament on Oct. 17 when he listed out the RM65.6 billion worth of mega-projects which were deferred because of the economic crisis.
On the contrary, Kedah Mentri Besar, Tan Sri Sanusi Junid had said hat the RM30 billion Kedah land reclamation project would not be affected by the current economic crisis or the Federal Government’s decision to postpone all mega-projects.
At the recent Kedah State Assembly meeting, Sanusi said the proposed RM30 billion land reclamation project, off the Kuala Muda coast, is expected to be the state’s main source of revenue.
The RM30 billion Kedah land reclamation project, covering 16,300 ha, has been described as the largest project of its kind in the world. Comparatively, reclamation around north Jakarta’s waterfront involved 8,750 ha while it was 2,200 ha for Taiwan’s west coast, 1,790 ha for Singapore’s Jurong Island, 511 ha for Japan’s Kansai International Airport and 200 ha for Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok Airport.
It has been reported that Kuala Lumpur-based Samudera Baru Darul Aman, which is undertaking the first package of the project costing RM6 billion, is awaiting approval of the EIA report to start work.
The Kedah state government had also appointed three other companies - Sayak Beach and Country Resort Sdn. Bhd., SKS Ventures Sdn. Bhd. and Progress Vision Sdn. Bhd - to undertake the three other packages.
A total of 20,390 ha had been proposed for reclamation along Kedah’s 110 km-long coast from Kuala Sanglang to Kuala Muda.
Phase one will involve about 890 ha of strip reclamation coastland along Yan district and the creation of six islands totalling 11,640 ha. The phase two reclamation project is still in the conceptual stage.
Kedah DOE director Raja Rokiah Raja Saigon had said that 14 non-government organisations have forwarded their written comments on the RM30 billion coastal reclamation project which was due to start this year.
Does this mean that the RM30 billion land reclamation project in Kedah is proceeding as originally planned, except for the postponement of the Northern Regional International Airport project? If so, this will be the first mega-project to go against the government campaign of austerity and the government, both national and state, must be aware of possible adverse market reactions as highlighted by the disastrous market sentiments after the RM10 billion land bridge project announcement by the Prime Minister on Dec. 4 last year.
In any event, the DOE should explain whether the EIA for the RM30 billion Kedah land reclamation project also included consideration of the proposed Northern Regional International Airport. The Department of Environment should suspend its EIA study of the RM30 billion Kedah land reclamation project if the project had been postponed indefinitely because of the current economic problems or the Federal Government should make a forthright statement that the RM30 billion Kedah land reclamation project is an exception to the deferment of mega-projects in the country.