We will be blamed for not building roads but we are now blamed also for building roads. Tell us what should we do? (e/c)

Press Statement by the Chief Minister of Penang, Lim Guan Eng in George Town, Komtar on 25.2.2016.

In its statement dated 21st February 2016, the Penang Forum Steering Committee (“Steering Committee”) raised two main points against the Penang Island City Council’s (“MBPP”) plans for a road widening exercise involving part of Jalan Masjid Negeri (also popularly known among Penangites as Green Lane Road). As we have nothing to hide, we offer to meet with the Penang Forum to discuss these issues in a rational and not emotive manner, so as not to miss the woods from the trees.

Whilst the state government is puzzled at the manufactured furore over the removing and replanting of 16 trees of 30 years old, almost akin if not greater than the uproar of certain states cutting down and removing entire forest reserves, we will strive to respond to 2 main issues raised in the interests of transparency and open government.
First was whether the additional lane can alleviate the current traffic congestion problems. Second, whether this exercise is in tandem with the Penang State Government’s commitment to a cleaner and greener state. The answer to both is yes.

Additional lane to alleviate current traffic congestion problems

While the Steering Committee may be able to view the island’s traffic woes in isolation, look at from a mono-dimension of protecting trees without regard for traffic congestion, and withstand it as a regular inconvenience for years to come, it is not a sentiment and luxury shared by many. Given that Green Lane Road functions as a main artery in the island’s existing network of roads, it undoubtedly bears a major brunt of traffic as residents would ply the route for their day-to-day business. The traffic woes on Green Lane Road is further increased as Penang’s heightened appeal as a popular destination for residence, investment and leisure resulting in an influx of visitors.

The proposed improvements are contained in the Penang Transport Master Plan (“PTMP”), combining a 5-in-1 solution combining LRT/monorail, taxis, buses, cable car and water taxis/ferries, an initiative by the Pakatan Harapan State Government. However, until the PTMP sees the light of day, is the State Government expected to cross its arms and wait patiently while traffic woes worsen? This lackadaisical attitude will surely not be accepted by Penangites as the State Government prides itself as one taking progressive actions. Hence, the Green Lane Road widening exercise comes in at an opportune time not as a one-stop solution but instead, serves two distinct purposes. First, as an interim move to curb current traffic congestion problems. Second, as an alternative route once the Air Itam bypass is completed.

Next, the implementation of other measures as stated by the Steering Committee is not without fault. Higher parking charges on public roads(up to RM5 per hour) and imposition of access fees for road use to the city during peak hours, would only cater to the elite and the rich at the expense of the have-nots.

State Government’s commitment to a cleaner and greener state

The Steering Committee highlighted the fact that the road widening exercise will affect 16 trees in total. In support of their reference to Helen Brown’s quote that ‘trees are a city’s air conditioners’, they may also want to consider the following facts –
a. the number of trees along Green Lane Road (the whole stretch from Jalan Udini to Jalan Ayer Itam) is 427. The number becomes 580 if Scotland Road (from Jalan Ayer Itam to Jalan Utama) is added into the equation;
b. out of this number of 427 or 580 trees, the percentage of affected trees is 3.75% or 2.76% respectively; and
c. the 16 trees in question will not be disposed but to be replanted at a new location.
Lest we forget no credit is given to the state government’s success in planting 271,000 trees since we took power in 2008, but attention is focused on the removal on 16 trees. Reason and logic is missing here.

Many may not have known that MBPP has undertaken tree replanting projects in the past. The replanting of these 16 trees is certainly not the first time. One example is the 34 trees which were replanted following the construction of the Jalan Udini stretch. Out of that number, 30 trees survived while the remaining trees had be chopped down due to termite infestation and decay. Overall, this indicates an 88% success rate. In tandem with the State Government’s commitment to a cleaner and greener state, MBPP is similarly determined to boast the same or even higher percentage of success in replanting the 16 trees from Green Lane Road.

Just as the Steering Committee is passionate on the fate of these 16 trees which are to be replanted, the State Government is also committed in finding arrangements to mitigate the acute traffic problems besetting the island. For this purpose, the State Government welcomes discussions with Penang Forum and like NGOs, so that parties’ concerns may be heard and wherever possible, be acted upon. We will be blamed for not building roads but we are now blamed also for building roads. Tell us what should we do?

LIM GUAN ENG

槟州首席部长林冠英于2016年2月25日 在乔治市发表声明:
槟城论坛主导委员会在2016年2月21日的一项会议上,针对槟岛市政局扩建部分州回教堂路(或是槟城人熟悉的青草巷)提出两大问题。我们问心无愧,并且主动要求与槟城论坛见面,以理性方式而不是情绪化地讨论,才不会“见树不见林”。

虽然我们感到疑惑,为什么我们移除及移植16棵30岁的树会引起不满?其程度甚至好像比起那些把一整片森林保留砍个精光的州属有过之而无不及,我们还是努力针对他们的疑问进行回应,以证明政府公开透明、坦荡荡。

首先就是增加通道是否可以减缓交通阻塞问题, 第二,这个做法是否与州政府打造绿意槟州的决心一致。两个答案皆为是。
增加通道减缓交通阻塞现象

上述委员会可以孤立看待槟岛的交通问题,单向地保护树木、不理会交通阻塞问题,也可以忍受接下来的日子继续不方便,但这可不是大多数人的情绪及奢侈能力。青草巷的功能是现有槟岛的主要交通骨干,它承载着许多居民每天出入的交通流量。随着槟城成为外来移民居住、投资及休闲的首选地,这加剧了青草巷的交通阻塞问题。

在槟城交通大蓝图中提出“五合一”的交通改善方案,包括轻快铁、德士、巴士、缆车及水上德士或渡轮,也是希望联盟政府提出的方案。但是,在交通大蓝图不明朗之前,但是州政府必须袖手旁观,让交通阻塞情况继续恶化?槟城人肯定不能接受州政府对问题“坐视不理”,因为州政府引以为豪地正是我们不断地采取进步的行动。因此,青草巷的扩建工程是适宜的,它不是一站式的方案,而是具有两个功能:第一、减缓现有交通阻塞问题的临时方案,第二、在亚依淡通道竣工后的替代道路。

另外,槟城论坛所提出的方案并非没有缺点,在公共道路上收取更高的停车费(每小时5令吉)及在高峰时期向道路使用者收取过路费,只能适用于少数精英及富裕人士,牺牲穷人。

州政府打造绿意槟州的决心

槟城论坛主导委员会强调一个事实,就是扩建道路将影响16棵树。当他们引述Helen Brown的名句“树木是城市的空调”时,他们是否也应该考虑下列事实:–
a. 青草巷的树木(从Jalan Udini至Jalan Ayer Itam)一共有427棵。如果把苏格兰路加进去(从Jalan Ayer Itam 至Jalan Utama)一共有580棵;
b. 无论是以总数427或580棵计,受影响的树木为3.75% 或 2.76% ; 还有,
c. 上述16棵树不是被砍了丢弃,而是被移植到新的地点。

州政府自2008年上台以来种植了约27万1000棵树,但是没有人提起,反之,大家聚焦在移植16棵树。当中的理由及逻辑是什么?
很多人可能不知道槟岛市政局过去已经采取树木移植技术。移植这16棵树也不是第一次,其中一个例子是兴建Jalan Udini 一带时移植了34棵树。上述树木当中,30棵树存活继续生长,其余的因为白蚁侵蚀和腐朽而被砍除。总得来说,移值的存活率达88%。配合州政府打造绿意槟州的决心,槟岛市政局决定在移植上述16棵青草巷的树木时争取更高的成功率。

正如槟城论坛主导委员会如此关心即将移植的16棵树,州政府也立志寻求对策,以解决日益严重、困扰槟岛的交通问题。因此,州政府欢迎槟城论坛及其它非政府组织前来商讨对策,好让各造提出疑虑、并尽可能获得解决。我们不建路、将会被骂,现在我们建路,也被骂。你们说,我们应该怎么做?

林冠英

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