Home TA Online The Gurney Drive beach in the city that we lost

The Gurney Drive beach in the city that we lost

Is it worth sacrificing another precious stretch – along with our food security – for another mega-reclamation project?

Gurney Drive in the 1970s: City dwellers had a beach at their door-step

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Look at this photo of Gurney Drive, probably in the 1970s.

It is hard to imagine we had a lovely beach in the city of George Town, Penang, once. People happily swimming in the sea. A day out for families. Some buying fresh wild-caught fish directly from inshore fisherfolk. You can’t get fish fresher than that!

Here’s another photo of a long stretch of beach in the city, this time from the 1930s:

Gurney Drive: Beach in the city

But look what happened by 2014:

The siltation along Gurney Drive in 2014

Now, after degrading this beach, we want to spend billions of ringgit trying to create “Gurney Wharf”, which is supposed to give city folk an artificial beach (which we once had for free), and a massive eight-lane coastal highway. In reality, the real purpose of this reclamation is the high-density property development planned on reclaimed land from near the Gurney Drive roundabout to Gurney Plaza/G Hotel.

Gurney Drive property development

But so far, all we have is mega reclamation that is nowhere near completion, having exceeded its completion date.

As if that’s not enough, the state government and its developers and contractor are raring to degrade and destroy the Golden Area (Kawasan Mas) – prized fishing waters in the south of Penang Island – in an even bigger reclamation mega-project. Never mind the pandemic and the overhang in the property market.

Source: EIA report on proposed reclamation in southern Penang Island

This is where the remaining inshore fisherfolk catch ikan kembung (Indian mackerel), bawal (pomfret), senangin (threadfin), kerapu (grouper) and jenahak (snapper). Let’s not forget the prawns – large and smaller white and grey-white species – all of them local favourites. Are we prepared to lose much of this?

READ MORE:  The Hills and The Sea & Doa Seorang Nelayan
These freshly caught prawns are so fresh they are almost transparent – TAN CHOO ENG

Is it worth sacrificing another precious stretch – along with our food security – in another mega-reclamation project? Remember, the rise in the population of Penang will taper off given the declining total fertility rate for the state, now standing at 1.3 children per woman – well below the population replacement level of 2.1.

Is there no end to greed that even the sea is not spared from the ravages of ‘development’?

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26 May 2021 11.57am

An effective means to deal with development and greed is to walk and talk business. Saying beautiful beach or clean river is priceless and blanket protest against any and all development is sounding like the braying of a dying beast, being flogged yet again.
Everyone asks rhetorically what price development and what we lost, yet no one is willing to put a price on it. If we wish things to improve and build on past missteps we must engage differently and put a price on what is dear to us. A price which must be paid in kind.

26 May 2021 11.36am

How much fish consumed in penang island is supplied by inshore fishery, as % of total fish consumed?
Compel developer to compensate for losses with 120% equivalent, perhaps with alternative means of livelihood eg aquaculture, eco tourism or other acceptable alternatives.
How much mangrove or productive natural fish breeding ground will be lost to said development?
Compel development to replace identified losses with 120% of equivalent within 3km radius.
These suggested alternatives and numbers are for illustrative purposes, the main points being:
Every development has an associated social and environmental cost, which is often neglected or grossly misrepresented. Make it a non-negotiable element which must be paid in kind.

loyal malaysian
loyal malaysian
22 May 2021 8.03am

Yes, Anil, I saw part of the reclamation project from my friend’s unit at The Residency.
As it stands now, they only have the developers promise the stretch will be a thriving semblance of the Gurney Drive of old.
Anil, is it too late to complain about the reclamation at Gurney Drive?
The horses have bolted from the stables and with the state govt. having a hand in the redevelopment, we may have another white elephant in the Gurney Wharf because of this covid 19 pandemic.
I feel Aliran and other like-minded bodies should protest the planned South Island Reclamation project. Make sure the project dont become a fact before protests are launched.

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