GEORGE TOWN, Penang: The Penang South Island (PSI) reclamation project will be reduced from three islands to one island following a request by Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, said Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow.
In a Facebook post on Thursday (May 11), Mr Chow said: “The state government has taken the approach to reduce the size (of the project) from 4,500 acres to 2,300 acres.”
He added that the downsize is a “49 per cent reduction” from the approved plan and that only development works for Silicon Island will proceed.
“This reduction in size means that only ‘Island A’ also known as ‘Silicon Island’, which is only 2,300 acres wide, will be implemented in two phases.
"‘Island B’ which is 1,400 acres wide and ‘Island C’ (800 acres) will not be continued,” he said.
Mr Chow explained that the decision to scale down the reclamation project was made based on Mr Anwar’s request to reduce the scope of the project.
“The Penang state government is (reducing) the development of the Penang South Islands (PSI) Project following the prime minister's request that the … scope of PSI is reduced,” he said.
According to Mr Chow, the prime minister last Saturday announced that additional funds would be channelled to help the state government expedite the construction of the George Town - Bayan Lepas light rail transit (LRT).
On Thursday, Mr Chow, who is also the Penang Democratic Action Party (DAP) chairman, said that the development of Silicon Island, including the topside, will take 20 years, according to the New Straits Times (NST).
It was previously estimated that the project could take 30 to 50 years to complete.
DAP has been a strong advocate for the PSI project and has featured the reclamation project in its 15th General Election manifesto amid criticism by environmentalists and fishermen. The party is a component party of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition which is a part of Mr Anwar’s federal unity government.
Critics have warned that the massive land reclamation project would harm the marine biodiversity, ruin a rich fishing ground and destroy the coastal fishing that has nurtured generations of fishermen and provided a vital food source for the people in Penang.
Mr Chow said on Thursday that the reduction meant only 115 fishermen from Permatang Tepi Laut facing the reclaimed island would be affected by the project, as opposed to 496 fishermen if the three islands were built.
“The first phase of Silicon Island will have almost no impact on fisherfolk,” he was quoted as saying by Free Malaysia Today.
Meanwhile, SRS Consortium project manager Szeto Wai Loong said that the firm would be spending about RM6 billion (US$1.3 billion) for the reclamation and another RM2.5 billion for common infrastructures, according to NST.
The PSI reclamation project originally aimed to create three man-made islands measuring 4,500 acres near the southern tip of Penang Island to drive economic and urban development.
It seeks to transform Penang and address key challenges faced by the state, such as inadequate infrastructure for its growing population, traffic congestion and lack of jobs.