Saturday, February 13, 2016

Chairman's Statement - TBRA AGM 2016

Statement of Dato’ Renji Sathiah, Chairman
Tanjung Bunga Residents Association

2016 TBRA AGM, 13th April, 2016

In the past year the residents of Tanjung Bunga and neighbouring communities, as well as in Penang in general, have witnessed an acceleration in the deterioation of the environment. The main driver of this is the fact that the state government clearly favours developers over the concerns of all those whose quality of life is impacted by the degradation of the environment.

In Tanjung Bungah there were two major threats in 2015. One was the huge project, comprising three high towers off Jalan Sungai Kelian, bordering on the DEE condominium in the heart of Tanjung Bunga. The condominium residents organised a press conference which was well supported and attended. The TBRA joined in this effort and I wrote to the Mayor expressing our deep concern over the development and its ramifications. The Mayor’s response was to ask the developer to lower the height of the building but, regrettably, the density was maintained. The second was the proposal and call for tenders by the Penang Development Council for the reclamation of 20 acres of land and the construction of a marina between the One Tanjung condominium and the Penang Swimming Club. The TBRA organised a demonstration against this proposal, which was well supported, in front of One Tanjung. The TBRA’s objections to the project were also made known to the Mayor in my letter. We have also been trying to work with the Penang Swimming Club, which will be seriously impacted by this project, to work on a joint response. To date there are no indications that the PDC proposal is still being considered. Possibly, in view of the major reclamation works planned for Tanjung Tokong and on the south coast, the state authorities may have decided to withhold this exercise. We will, however, remain vigilant.

We also face a number of other issues: pointless construction of pavements and barriers in different parts of Tanjung Bungah, benefitting contractors and ignoring the protests of affected locals; the growing increase of traffic caused by over-development on the hillsides between Tanjung Bungah and Batu Ferringhi, including heavy construction in Batu Ferringhi itself and massive projects in Jalan Permai; a worsening of security in the neighbourhood and the persisting dengue problem.

The TBRA conducted a survey last year amongst its members and other Tanjung Bungah residents which provided useful insights into residents’ concerns.

The very important issue of the status of Tanjung Bungah as a secondary corridor and not a primary corridor based on a major discrepancy in the second Penang Structure Plan, which had Tanjung Bungah classified as a primary development corridor in a diagram when the text showed it as a secondary corridor, remains unresolved. The developers, it appears, have been given free rein as there is no gazetted Local Plan.

The good news is the revival of the Penang Forum, which took on the issue of illegal hill slope construction in a “Save the Hills” campaign. A public forum was held with about 300 participants, followed by a meeting with the Chief Minister to discuss his claims that the Penang Forum was uninformed and misled by the opposition and the media. It was an exhaustive meeting with the Forum producing compelling evidence that the current state government had approved some of these projects. The Forum argued that the state was not legally obliged to renew earlier applications and could have imposed new conditions on them and that there was no legal basis for compensation as claimed by the state. The Chief Minister has suggested that the Forum’s experts meet with their state counterparts on these issues.

Of great significance was the Appeal Board’s judgement on the appeal made by residents in Sungai Ara against a 600 home project on the hillside next to where they lived. The Board ruled that this “Special Project” ( used to justify what would not be normally allowed under law) did not fall under the legal definition i.e that it is only for limited development and in the public interest. Furthermore, the MBPP did not have the authority to approve such projects. This landmark ruling provides grounds for challenges to other such projects.

The TBRA would like to work with other residents associations in Penang to put pressure on the authorities to respond to peoples’ concerns and to support the efforts of the Penang Forum.

Overdevelopment, illegal construction, massive land reclamations without rigorous and credible environmental impact assessments and now a controversial Penang Traffic Master Plan, recently announced by the government, are the key issues facing us in Tanjung Bungah and Penang as a whole. We must counter these threats to the environment and to our quality of life but to do so we need your support and commitment. Regrettably, here in our neighbourhood and elsewhere in Penang, people seem to only react when faced with a problem on their doorstep. This has to change if we are to become truly effective by showing solidarity on matters impacting on the community as a whole.

[This document is also available here in document format:]

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