JOHOR BARU - The controversial multi-billion-ringgit Forest City Project, which was suspended for about six months, has finally been given the green light to resume, after being scaled down by at least 30 per cent.
The project, which was initially slated to cover 1,978ha, has now been scaled down by approximately 610ha to 1,368.05ha.
The project is expected to resume following the Department of Environment (DOE) approval of the project's detailed environmental impact assessment (DEIA) on Jan 9.
Johor Health and Environment executive committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat confirmed that he had been informed that the DOE had given the nod for the project to resume.
"However, there are conditions which come with the approval and I hope the developer will fulfil all these conditions," he told StarBiz here.
But when asked about the conditions, he said he had yet to read the contents of the report, as he was on leave and would be going away to perform his umrah.
Asked when the project was expected to resume, he said he was not sure, adding, however, that the developer would be able to proceed with the development now that the DEIA report was out.
The project, by Chinese developer Country Garden Pacificview (CGPV), will create four man-made islands with a gross development value of RM600bil over a period of 30 years.
It is a joint-venture between the state Government's subsidiary company Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor and China real estate developer Country Garden Holdings Ltd.
Many quarters had in the past voiced concerns, mainly local fishermen and residents, over their livelihood and the dangers to the marine life in Gelang Patah.
Even the Singapore Government had expressed its concerns about the project in a note to Putrajaya, resulting in the project being temporarily halted, pending the outcome of the DEIA.
CGPV voluntarily ceased construction on June 16 last year because the DOE had requested a DEIA to accompany the project's viability assessment and the state government approvals.
In the past, the state DOE had given CGPV the clearance to start reclamation works for the first phase of about 49.3ha, but ceased operations in June last year when concerns were raised about the project.
At the height of the issue, there were conflicting reports over the DEIA report, including the possibility that the project would be scaled down.
Meanwhile, CGPV, when asked about the number of conditions imposed by the DOE with regards to the DEIA approval, replied that "we are highly committed to ensuring all the environmental factors are thoroughly assessed and mitigated. Upon commencement of the work, we will submit an updated Environmental Management Plan together with a frequent third-party audit as requested by the DOE".
Meanwhile, CGPV executive director Datuk Md Othman in a statement said that the DEIA covered the measures proposed to minimise or mitigate environmental impacts through integrated and workable solutions, which were acceptable to the DOE.
"Our next step is to ensure that all compliance monitoring, in terms of air, noise, water quality and sediments, is robustly implemented and carried out.
"One of our immediate priorities is to minimise the impact to the local communities and ensure the surrounding ecology is well-preserved.
"On behalf of CGPV, I will like to extend my appreciation to all parties who have made their contributions to the DEIA.
"Rest assured that we will continue to work closely with all stakeholders and regulatory authorities to ensure the project development always takes into consideration the needs of the communities and the environment," he added.
He further stated that the approval of the DEIA was a step forward in its goal to bring sustainable development to the state.
Othman added that among the tangible benefits include diversifying the income base and improving the quality of living of the local communities by providing workshops and training schools in different sectors, rejuvenating the infrastructure in the area.
Among them include the building of a new access road, the construction of power stations and a new water reticulation system.
"We hope to increase investment activities in the region by creating an investment corridor," he added.