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
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，
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。