Johor reclamation project sparks concerns again

Johor reclamation project sparks concerns again

PONTIAN (Malaysia) - A proposed land reclamation project in the Johor Strait has once again raised environmental concerns, even as a Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) report on it was released by the Pontian authorities last month.

The project to create a 1,411ha island, known as the Tanjung Piai Maritime Industrial Park, is one of two massive land reclamation projects in the south-western end of Malaysia's Johor state which have previously sparked concerns among environmentalists.

The other project, a 2,000ha proposed island, near the Second Link Bridge connecting Johor to Singapore, is known as Forest City.

A Straits Times report in June quoted the company involved in the Tanjung Piai project, Benalec Holdings, as saying reclamation is expected to begin before the end of this year, and oil storage facilities would be built once the island is completed.

Pekan Nanas assemblyman Yeo Tung Siong of the opposition Democratic Action Party raised concerns at a press conference over whether Tanjung Piai will become another Pengerang, reported the Sin Chew Daily last Saturday.

He was referring to a US$16 billion (S$21 billion) project on the south-eastern side of Johor, in Pengerang, called the Refinery and Petrochemicals Integrated Development (Rapid), which activists have said would harm the environment and affect the livelihoods of fishermen. Previous media reports said this project is part of the Malaysian government's plan to capture some of the global energy business from Singapore.

Benalec is also involved in the reclamation works to extend the shoreline of the Rapid project.

As for the Tanjung Piai project, Mr Yeo raised fears that the proposed oil storage facility, which is less than 1km away from Tanjung Piai's mangrove forests and about 10km away from Kukup fishing village, will bring irreparable damage to the forests and fishing grounds in the area.

The facility will attract large oil bunkers, leading to the possibility of oil spills that will have a serious impact on the water quality.

Many fish farms and resort operators are likely to be affected too, added Mr Yeo.

Already, he said, close to 90 per cent of local residents are against two other major development projects in the area, a power plant in Tanjung Bin and a port in Tanjung Pelepas.

According to the DEIA report, 51.2 per cent of residents polled have voiced opposition to the Tanjung Piai project. Mr Yeo cited this as a reason that he is gathering at least 50 signatures for a petition which he will submit to the Environment Ministry on Friday.

This article was first published on December 22, 2014.
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