Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tanjong Bunga's SORE THUMB, revisited

From my window, I can monitor “ progress” on the Sore Thumb. While there were bulldozers at work three months ago, there has not been any discernible activity for at least the last month.  One wonders why? Out of concern for public objection? Certainly not.  Out of fear of reprisal from the State government? Impossible. Has a STOP WORK order finally been issued? Unlikely.

To backtrack a little.  The area dubbed the Sore Thumb is located on the beach in Tanjong Bunga. It started a long time ago, as of 2002 when hundreds of truckloads of rocks, soil and discarded building materials were dumped into the sea, creating a humpbacked jetty. In fact it was an ILLEGAL reclamation of the sea in front of the Copthorne Hotel and just next to Penang Swimming Club. By law, all reclamations belong to the government.
TBRA led a public outcry, when it appeared that this jetty might be privatized. The then Tanjong Country Club had submitted plans for a marina. TBRA objected to these plans and asked the government to make the Thumb into a public park.  The population of Tanjong Bunga has been increasing and space for recreation has been decreasing. Much of the access to the beach along Tanjong Bunga road has become inaccessible to the public. For a good walk or jog, residents have to drive to the Botanical Gardens which does not help the traffic congestion.
When the Cove was built, the 4 huge towers became known as Tanjong Bunga’s Four Sore Fingers and with the Sore Thumb that made a hand saying: STOP!
Coastal Public Park Proclaimed
In 2010, TBRA organized a very well attended “tea-party” where over a hundred residents claimed the Thumb as a public park. The huge gate that illegally blocked access to State land was opened and the residents proudly marched to the Thumb. Our Tanjong Bunga ADUN led the march. TBRA chairman proclaimed the Coastal Park.

Meanwhile, the building plans for the marina which had been approved, lapsed and thus the approval also timed out. There was hope. Trees started growing on the Sore Thumb. Twice, the State Govt jointly with TBRA, Dalat School and JKT organized huge Gotong Royongs to clean the beach and make the Park more accessible. But, the govt did not send in bulldozers to level the Thumb into a real park…

Tanjong Bunga has become the unwilling darling of the developers in the past 5 years.  Luxury high-rises hide the sea, and spoil the view for all except a few rich who can afford these multi-million dollar condos (and actually live there instead of just purchasing for investment). Some of these developers even advertise a private beach. One of them who did was the Tanjong One, the same company that, under a different name, had applied for a permit to build the marina. Somehow, its application for 2 huge 39 story towers, right next to the Cove was approved and the one closest to the sea was rapidly finished and said to be sold out. The second one, near the road rose quickly but… it has now faltered. Lack of money, it is rumored.

So now there is a small forest of 6 extremely high buildings hiding the Sore Thumb, alias Coastal Park.
Private bulldozers have been digging into the Sore Thumb, beyond the permissible area.  There is a village of migrant workers just at the edge. The 'illegal' Sore Thumb itself still does not have a lot number. That may be better as it would make it 'legal' in a sense and easier to privatize.

The small river that lies next to the Sore Thumb has been canalized, diverted and covered up by the Tanjong One developer. This is ILLEGAL. The Town and Country Planning Act has a River Enactment Section (1976), which requires a license for altering the natural flow of any river.  Did the developer apply for said license? We doubt it.  This river is important, as it brings the run off from Pearl Hill to the sea.  If obstructed, it could overflow onto the Tanjong Bunga road during the rainy season.  If this happens, who do we blame? The developer? MPPP? Chances are, fingers will be pointed at everyone, but it's the public who will bear the burden and the inconvenience.

The land on both sides of the river belongs to the State. The developer claims that he has been given permission to build a road on that public land.  The main purpose is to access its beach side tower block. However, according to Mr. Phee Boon Poh, some time back, no permission has been given to use state land. He said “ANY USAGE IS TRESPASSING”. 
Kudos also to PSC members, some of whom are residents of Tanjong Bunga, who unanimously voted against building the road. But now the road is there and has an official green road sign: Tingkat Laut 1 (see pix) so…. somewhere along the line, somebody in MPPP gave permission ! Who that?
What are our major concerns?
That the developer will continue to use public land for private use. Just like the road, the Sore Thumb may gradually be expropriated and, instead of it becoming a public park, it will end up with some kind of
new marina, a hotel and other buildings, marring even more of Tanjong Bunga’s seashore.

TBRA has complained umpteen times to MPPP and the Chief Minister about obvious underhand activities. The complaints have been acknowledged, in writing and MPPP has promised to 'monitor' the situation. But like so many promises, these have yet to be fulfilled !!
I will keep on doing real “monitoring” from my window.
Malicca Ratne
for TBRA

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