Explaining the contentious Penang South Islands reclamation project

(MMO) – The Penang South Islands (PSI) project, also known as the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project, has been a hot-button issue in recent weeks with everybody — both sides of the political divide, civil society and neighbourhood uncles and aunties — weighing in.

So, what exactly is the PSI? It’s a massive reclamation project to create three islands off the southern coast of Penang island.

The islands, loosely named A, B and C, will measure a total 4,500 acres (1,821 ha) in land size off the coastal village of Permatang Damar Laut.

The project was first introduced back in 2015 as the funding module for the RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) after SRS Consortium was appointed as the project delivery partner (PDP) on August 14, 2015.

SRS Consortium comprises Gamuda Berhad (60 per cent), Penang-based Loh Phoy Yen Holdings Sdn Bhd (20 per cent) and Ideal Property Development Sdn Bhd (20 per cent).

The PTMP was first introduced as a “comprehensive, efficient and well-connected transport strategy” for an integrated and modern transport framework that included public, private, land and sea transportation systems.

The mega project included proposals for highways, LRT, monorail, bus rapid transit, trams, ferries and water taxis with PSI as the funding module.

The proposed RM6.3 billion three paired roads and undersea tunnel project, to be implemented by a different PDP — Zenith Consortium — was also included in the PTMP but this component is to be funded through a different funding module.

The Penang state government planned to implement the two priority components of the PTMP first: the Pan Island Link 1 (PIL1) and the Bayan Lepas—George Town LRT line (BL LRT).

PIL1 is a 19.5 kilometre highway, estimated to cost RM7.5 billion, consisting of 7.6 kilometres of viaduct sections, four tunnel sections totalling 10.1 kilometres in length and embankment sections totalling 1.8 kilometres.

PIL1, which links Gurney Drive to Bayan Lepas, will have six interchanges linking all major hubs.

It will integrate with the north coastal paired road, Gurney Drive paired road, Air Itam and Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway Bypass, first and second Penang bridge, the proposed undersea tunnel and Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for PIL1 was approved by the Department of Environment (DoE) on April 10, 2019 with 56 conditions.

The BL LRT is estimated to cost RM8.4 billion and it will stretch from Bayan Lepas to George Town and will also be linked to Penang South Reclamation (PSR) once the islands are reclaimed.

The rail line is estimated to cover 29.5 kilometres and will have 27 stations linking the Penang International Airport in Bayan Lepas with Komtar in George Town.

However, due to a lack of funds, the state is pushing forward with the PSI first in order to raise funds for the construction of PIL1 and the BL LRT.

Approval for the BL LRT from the Transport Ministry is still pending.