During the last couple of weeks as I watched the bumper to bumper traffic on Jalan Tanjung Tokong, I kept reminding myself to write a post on a future project being developed for Penang. Today, after waiting to cross the road in the extremely hot sun, I promised myself that I would do it today.
The new project I am talking about is a water theme park to be built in Taluk Bahang with the first phase opening in 2013 or 2014. Sim Leisure is set to start work on the RM120 million Escape Theme Park Resort to be built on a 44 acre plot of land in Taluk Bahang. Apparently this park will be constructed in three phases over a 6 year period of time.
What gets me is that this theme park is touted as an "eco-friendly" theme park. The park will be located on 44 acres of forest land, which will be completely destroyed in order to built an artificial water park. The habitats for hundreds of species of animals, plants and insects will be destroyed, and no doubt replaced with fake animals, rocks and plants in the park. Okay now if you look just a few hundred feet from where this proposed theme park will be located you will see the ocean, containing sea water and sea creatures. Thousands of tourists come to Penang to take part in recreational activities in these waters and no alteration of the sea needs to be done. I can see a water theme park being built in a location that is miles away from a large body of water, but destroying acres of rain forest to place a water park, right next to the ocean is ludicrous.
Tourists flock to Penang for hiking in the rain forests, the scenery and water sports, such as diving, fishing, swimming and jet skiing. Many people, from all over the world, return year after year to enjoy the splendors of this tropical island. Theme park goers, usually go once and that's all. After the rain forest is gone and the natural waters of the sea have become muddied and polluted, how many foreigners will want to come just for a theme park, which can be found in many other countries of the world? How many will come to see an artificial ecosystem, where a real ecosystem once thrived? Just take a look at Gurney Drive. When I first visited Penang about 7 years ago there was actually clean water next to Gurney Drive. After the real estate developers got their way with land reclamation and over development nearby, there is nothing but a disgusting polluted mud flat. In the hands of the developers it is almost a sure thing that the same thing will happen to Taluk Bahang.
Aside from the rape of the rain forest and pollution of the seas, what will be the effect upon the rest of the area. I have noticed in the past 4 years since living here that there is a plethora of condos, super condos and shopping developments being built left and right. Another thing that I have noticed is that the infrastructure remains the same. It seems that with every new development the developer is given free reign,at the expense of the environment. With the development of the new theme park a number of new hotels will be built to accommodate the thousands of visitors to the park. There has been no mention of improvement of roads or public transportation or other aspects of the infrastructure, only how much money will be made. At present there is only one, winding 2 lane road from Tanjung Tokong to Taluk Bahang and nothing else planned for the foreseeable future. There will be traffic jams of epic proportions and a complete nightmare for people traveling to and from Batu Ferringhi once the park is completed. Before that time there will be a steady stream of mud spattered construction vehicles impeding a free flow of traffic for thousands of local residents. Walking along the streets of Tanjung Tokong and Tanjung Bungah, I see uncovered drains filled with sewage and garbage, running beside the sidewalks, if indeed there are sidewalks. Looking down I see paper and plastic bags, garbage, old tires and other items of trash. Looking up I see neon signs, brand new buildings and elegant stores and restaurants. Millions are being spent on bling, while nothing is being spent of the environment, the infrastructure or the health and future of the island.
I realize that myself, like thousands of other expats are only visitors or guests in Penang and are not involved in community policy making decisions. But for many of us Penang is our home and the home of our local friends and relatives. We cherish the culture and the beautiful environment of the island. We don't want it all to be destroyed by greed.