Malaysia: Don't wipe out turtle nesting sites!

Signatures delivery to Local Government and Housing Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin Signatures delivery of the petition "Save Malaysia's sea turtles" , July 2019 (© Penang Forum)

Jan 22, 2020

We appeal to all those who have signed this petition to help us inform the international architectural firms that the "Penang South Island" project threatens to wipe out five nesting sites of endangered Olive Ridley and Green Turtles.

The Penang state government has decided to go ahead with a Masterplan Design Competition for "Penang South Island", even though the Environmental Impact Assessment approval for the reclamation is under appeal. The project for the development of three man-made islands measuring 4,500 acres will take up to 15 years. The Department of Environment itself has said that Penang South Reclamation "will cause permanent damage and residual effects to mudflat ecosystems, fisheries, turtle landing areas, and coral reefs." 

Two organizations, the Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) and Friends of the Earth (FoE) Malaysia, have strongly objected to the Penang state government still continuing with the Masterplan Design Competition.

Architects competing in Masterplan for Ecosystem Destruction 

The competition finalists announced on 16 January 2020 are five consortiums comprising international architectural firms who are matched with Malaysian companies, "to ensure all proposals submitted are also informed of local knowledge and context." They are:

  • Bjarke Ingels Group & Hijjas Architects + Planners
  • Foster + Partners & GDP Architects
  • MVRDV & aLM Architects
  • Tekuma Frenchman & Eowon Architects
  • UNStudio & Architects 61

We appeal to all those who have signed this petition to help us inform the international architectural firms that the "Penang South Island" project threatens to wipe out five turtle nesting sites of endangered Olive Ridley and the Green Turtles. This would give the firms a chance to withdraw from the competition rather than be embarrassed and blacklisted afterwards for having played a role in a project that violates the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Meenakshi Raman, President, Friends of the Earth, Malaysia, informs us that "the state government is proceeding as if all the approvals will be given and any legal challenge to its project will be decided in its favor regardless of objections by interested parties like the Sungai Batu Fishermen’s Unit and civil society organizations. This makes a mockery of civil society participation in decision-making on public matters and the legal process to ensure environmental protection and social justice.”  

A representative of the Sungai Batu Fishermen’s Unit filed an application in July last year to the Appeals Board set up under the Environmental Quality Act 1974, to challenge the approval by the Department of Environment (DOE) of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Penang Southern Reclamation (PSR) project. The appeal has not been heard and decided. The Sungai Batu fishermen have challenged the approval of the EIA on various grounds, including that the DOE’s approval of the EIA was premature as the EIA was incomplete and had not taken into account the conditions imposed by the Ministry of Agriculture and also that the project undermines Malaysia’s obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity.