Thursday, January 15, 2015

In about-turn, KL approves bigger area for Forest City project


KUALA LUMPUR — In an apparent reversal of its earlier reported stance, Malaysia’s Department of Environment (DOE) has greenlighted the RM600 billion (S$228 billion) Forest City mixed-development project in Johor.

The decision comes barely a week after reports in Malaysia quoted the DOE as saying only a fraction of the project — 405ha, instead of the developer’s planned 1,386ha — would be given the go-ahead. Yesterday, however, the developer said approval had been given for 1,386ha — only a shade smaller than the original plan of 1,623ha.

Country Garden Pacific View (CGPV) said yesterday that the DOE had approved the project’s detailed environmental impact assessment report (DEIA), which means the developer can now proceed with earthwork and construction.

The developer said in a statement that reclamation would continue, but with the project’s total size slightly reduced. The project, now divided into four reclaimed islands, instead of one huge island nearly three times the size of Ang Mo Kio as originally planned, will have a total size of 1,386ha — smaller than the 1,623ha proposed by the firm.

However, the latest development is a reversal of the DOE’s announcement last week that it would impose a limit of 405ha on the developer.

The Malaysian Insider reported last week that the DOE had verbally informed CGPV of the new limits, after complaints from locals and the Singapore Government over reclamation work in the narrow waterway between Malaysia and the island state.

For now, CGPV said its “next step is to ensure all compliance monitoring, in terms of air, noise, water quality and sediment, is robustly implemented and carried out”.

“This is one of our immediate priorities, minimising the impact on local communities and ensuring the surrounding ecology is well preserved,” said CGPV executive director Md Othman Yusof.

The Forest City project will see four man-made islands built in the waters in Tanjung Kupang between south-western Johor and the north-west of Singapore. The mixed-development project will include residential and commercial lots.

Mr Md Othman said the project was “consistent with the government’s vision as outlined in the Economic Transformation Programme”.

CGPV is a 66-34 per cent joint venture between China’s Country Garden Holdings and Esplanade Danga 88, whose main shareholder is the Sultan of Johor. Johor state company Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor (KPRJ) is also a partner.

Several media reports last year said following a diplomatic note from Singapore, the DEIA was conducted because of the project’s location near the Malaysia-Singapore border and coastal reclamation work involved.

The assignment was initially approved by the Johor DOE in January last year, but work at the project’s site was halted in June after the developer was instructed to submit a DEIA.

The project is being implemented off the coast where fishing communities and villages make a living from sea produce and agriculture in the Tanjung Kupang area.

Fishermen and fish-farm operators have blamed land reclamation work for mass fish deaths in the area, but the developer has denied this.

The firm that prepared the DEIA report, however, had apparently raised caution about dredging and sedimentation caused by the project that would affect the seabed, said the New Straits Times, which had obtained a copy of the report and reported on it last month.

The paper said despite mitigation measures to cushion the environmental impact, including the use of a “silt curtain” around the reclamation area, experts had said more damage could be expected.


No comments: