Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Price of Development in Penang

Once Tanjung Tokong was my playground...searching for mussels in the evening as fishing boats laden with their catch of the day set to berth, idyllic as the fresh sea breezes into the wide opened closures of the Malay kampong

In grasping development, the roads becomes congested and white jungles piled to capture the once serene coast with rubbish polluting the beaches and thick mud became an additional feature of the sea…amidst the popularity akin to the French Riviera. 
Reclamation and property development of 760 acre land off Tanjung Tokong and the 130 acre reclamation project at Gurney Drive, has impacted the livelihood of the people associated with the produce from the sea. 

The massive acquisition of land and development is disenchanted with investment that the population of the less fortunate or displacing the century old of ownership with the land and lifestyle, despite Penang being associated with the World Heritage status. 

Certainly if one reflect to the Maslow’s Hierarchy, the basic needs of any human is shelter, food, water and warmth. The development model executed especially in the coastal Penang is not benefiting them in any terms. The costs of displacement is poorly justified to them, compared to the gains of the state or individuals in the property circle or administrative. 

The Environmental laws introduced; the National Landscape policy (particular involving hill slopes development) and the Town and Country Planning Act 172 part III which functions to regulate to balance the physical development towards the socio-economics and development, are seemingly ignored or interpreted by those with authority lustful of money and personal gains…not the majority! 
Upon approaching the island, one could observe and obvious felling of the green lungs of Penang. Bukit Relau a.k.a Bukit Botak; 30 hectare land was cleared in 2013 without approval. Brazen deforestation of the island skyline apparently goes unpunished as they flow into the state coffers and the man on top. 
Little has been done to stop these occurrences. The authorities were neither helpful with platitudes of “looking into”, “monitoring the situation” and “setting up a task force” and “waiting for mitigation plans and EIA reports”. 

These clich├ęs so often provides no security to the Penangites; employments in the once nicknamed the Silicon Valley of the East, thronged with retrenchments and unresolved amplified the grave adversity of population movement and displacement. 

One might ask, does the exorbitant priced housing commensurate the earnings of a household? Does USD9,700 per capita represent the majority thus reflecting the necessity to plunder the hill slopes too? Are we scarce of land? The population of the medium to low income groups more often than not becomes the victims in local development. 

While we may want a development model; harmonious with the environment and tries to keep the ecological balance, the state and federal authorities are often at loggerheads to champion the cause while the population affected by development and policy interpretations allowing corporations and others to trample.