Johor reclamation works begin despite concerns

Johor reclamation works begin despite concerns

KUALA LUMPUR - Two massive reclamation projects are under way in the Johor Strait despite the lack of environmental assessment reports and a move by Singapore asking about the impact of the development.

According to a report by news website The Malaysian Insider yesterday, the reclamation has also raised concerns over how it will affect the livelihoods of fishermen, as well as ships using the nearby Port of Tanjung Pelepas.

One of the projects is a 2,000ha man-made island - nearly three times the size of Ang Mo Kio estate - that will feature luxury homes and will be completed in 30 years' time.

The works are being carried out by China property developer Country Garden Holdings and Johor state company Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor.

According to previous media reports, the project, called Forest City, is backed by Johor's Sultan Ibrahim Ismail Sultan Iskandar.

Previous maps used by the Malaysian media showed a rectangular piece of reclaimed land, part of it lying under the Second Link, the bridge joining Tuas to Gelang Patah in Johor.

But The Malaysian Insider yesterday published a map that showed a much bigger island on the Malaysian side of the border in the strait.

Another massive reclamation, also reported by the Insider, is a 1,410ha island by Kuala Lumpur-listed company Benalec Holdings.

On its website, the company named the project as the Tanjung Piai Maritime Industrial Park, and said the island would be turned into a petroleum and petrochemical hub.

According to the Insider, this project is backed by Johor's Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Idris Sultan Ibrahim.

All reclamation in Malaysia with land areas of 50 acres (20.2ha) or more need to have environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies submitted. Only when the EIA report has been approved by the government can the project go ahead.

But the promoters of Forest City had proposed breaking up the man-made island into smaller parcels so that environmental assessment studies would not have to be submitted, the Edge Review online magazine reported last month.

Johor's director of the Department of Environment, Mr Mokhtar Abdul Majid, said yesterday that the Forest City project does not need an EIA report as the land area measures 49 acres.

Reclamation work began in early March and is expected to be completed within eight months, Mr Mokhtar was quoted as saying by the Bernama news agency.

Singapore had over the weekend expressed concern to Malaysia over the reclamation works in the Johor Strait.

Its Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said that Singapore had asked for more information so it could study the possible impact on the Republic and the strait.

"They have agreed to do so and we hope to receive the information soon," a spokesman said.

"Given Johor's close proximity to Singapore, we are naturally concerned about any possible transboundary impact on Singapore from property development projects that involve reclamation works in the Strait of Johor."

The MFA added: "There are also international obligations for both the Malaysian and Singapore authorities to work closely on such matters."

This article was first published on June 24, 2014.
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