Civil groups criticise Penang island council over local draft plan

A fisherman casts his net on the Irrawaddy, seen by many as the soul of the nation. Photo: Pinterest. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

GEORGE TOWN, Oct 27, 2022, Malay Mail. The Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) and the Penang Forum, today hit out at the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) for what they see as poor disclosure of the draft local plan 2030, Malay Mail reported.

The two civil society groups claimed the draft local plan was not accessible to many residents due to the locations chosen as well as the viewing time restrictions.

“The council is required under the Town and Country Planning Act to actively promote popular participation in the draft local plan process, because citizens, residents and stakeholders have the right to be informed about local council planning for their areas and the issues that will affect them, such as building density, recreational open space, mobility, flood mitigation and coastal reclamation,” CAP president Mohideen Abdul Kader said in a news conference here this morning.

He said the two locations chosen for public display — the Syed Al-Attas Mansion in George Town and the Makerspace in Balik Pulau — were insufficient.

He said the council should hold roadshows at various locations on the island, and even publish it online, to make the draft local plan more accessible to the public and extend the viewing times for proper feedback to be given.

“The public has been waiting 14 years for this draft local plan so they should make it more accessible for the public to look at it and give feedback,” he said.

Khoo Salma, from Penang Forum, urged Penangites to make time to look at the draft local plan as it could potentially affect their homes and their neighbourhoods.

“MBPP has so many smart city plans so they should make this public display smart by putting it online too,” she said.

Lim Mah Hui, a Penang Forum steering committee member, said MBPP should extend the public display period as the current schedule is inconvenient for people who are working.

“It is only on display during office hours from 9am to 1pm and from 2pm to 4pm. It is not available on weekends so those who are working will not be able to see it,” he said.

The draft local plan is on public display from October 14 to December 13.

Sungai Batu Fisherman Unit head Zakaria Ismail, who was also at the same news conference, accused the state government of sidelining food security in favour of reclaiming more land from the sea in the draft local plan.

The fisherman, a known critic of the state’s controversial Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project, said there were a few more proposed land reclamation projects off the coast of the island in the draft local plan.

“It looks like the state doesn’t care about food security, it only cares about reclaiming more land for development and doesn’t care if the people has food to eat,” he said.

He claimed the local catch was diminishing due to these land reclamation projects, which has led to soaring prices for local seafood.

“There was a recent report of a fisherman caught trafficking drugs. So you think it’s the fisherman’s fault?

“It is not. It’s because the fisherman can no longer make a living catching fish when they reclaimed the sea off Tanjung Tokong so he had to find other ways to survive,” he said.

Zakaria said he is not against development, and told the state government to pay more attention to ensuring Penang’s food security.

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