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Melaka May Lose 'Last' Public Beach After State Govt Sells 33KM Coastline To Developers

The state government has received a slew of criticism from non-governmental organisations, assemblypersons, local residents, and environmental activists after the Melaka Waterfront Economic Zone (M-WEZ) project was announced.

Cover image via Booking.com & The Malaysian Reserve

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A project involving reclamation of land spanning 33km from Umbai to Sungai Udang has left residents in Melaka worried about the future of the state as they could potentially lose their 'last' public beach

The fear has led to the launch of a Change.org petition, which demands the federal government's intervention to stop the state government from proceeding with the Melaka Waterfront Economic Zone (M-WEZ) project.

The Melaka Chief Minister is from Barisan Nasional, a component coalition in the Perikatan Nasional government.

The mega project is said to cover a total of 25,000 acres (about 101km²) of coastline in Melaka, reported The Edge Markets.

Following the announcement of the M-WEZ project on 8 March, LBS Bina Group Bhd had signed a deal with the local government to reclaim 1,200 acres (about 4.8km²) of land in Tanjung Bruas.

The deal marks the first of many future deals that fall under the state government's control, a gargantuan initiative that they claim will generate about RM3 billion to RM4 billion — or about 5% — of the state's annual gross domestic product (GDP) by 2035.

Image via The Vibes

Critics of the mega project claimed that it will erode the marine ecosystem of the Straits of Melaka, cause floods, and affect the livelihoods of fishermen, among others

Writing on the petition, a Melaka coastline protection committee member accused the state government of bulldozing the plan without consulting the public, residents, fishermen, local tourist businesses, or other local stakeholders.

"Seemingly, it has just popped up out of nowhere," they said.

"Any new development on this scale (Tanjung Bruas reclamation) legally requires EIAs (Environment Impact Assessments), but after approaching several parties we cannot discover these. Have all the proper procedures been followed for local and federal government approval? Could they [ink] an agreement without an EIA and Federal approval?"

They also claimed that the state government allowed corporations to reclaim land "way below" market price, expressing their concerns on whether the state government is getting good value out of the project.

"The developer puts RM95 million on the table, so roughly RM80,000 per acre, which is way below the existing commercial land price per acre in Melaka. According to Mudah, per acre cost of Melaka commercial land around the area is on average RM3,000,000, going up to RM7,000,000 for prime locations, [especially] those reclaimed land."

The land in Tanjung Bruas acquired by LBS Bina Group Bhd is only about 11km away from tourist landmark Jonker Street.

Meanwhile, Tan Loon Kah, a resident working with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other groups to halt the reclamation, told Free Malaysia Today that past projects in Melaka Raya have caused flooding in Kota Laksamana and Jonker Street to become a normal sight.

Tan questioned the viability of the project and how it would affect the surrounding areas.

Flash flood in a street next to Jonker Street in August 2017.

Image via Facebook

The petition highlighted that LBS Bina Group Bhd has reports of questionable quality control and complaints from unsatisfied property purchasers.

"Is the Melaka government sure of the suitability of this 'private limited', 'paid-up capital unknown' company?" the message on the petition reads.

Pantai Kundor assemblyman Nor Azman Hassan said he is against the project, but could not do much to stop the state government from proceeding with it

The elected local representative said his biggest concern is the livelihoods of the fishermen because the project will force them to make a living elsewhere that could potentially affect their catch.

The petition also echoed the same concern, saying, "Fishermen now must go out further into the rougher sea with their small boats, risking their lives, and fishing at a higher cost."

"In past examples, the government actually promised compensation to the fishermen, but complaints persist that nothing was actually disbursed."

Additionally, Tan said that the M-WEZ project will cause Melakans to lose their last public beach.

"The Pantai Puteri beach is the last beach for [Melakans]. Many families go there on the weekends and; for fishermen, it's one of the busiest fish markets in Melaka," the NGO worker told Free Malaysia Today.

"We've lost the Tengkera, Klebang Kecil, and Klebang Besar beaches. Now, are we going to lose this one too?"

Pantai Puteri, Melaka

Image via Booking.com

As of writing, the petition has garnered over 6,400 signatures

While the Melaka coastline protection committee member wrote that they are not totally against the M-WEZ project as "no city can stand still", they urged the state government to proceed with the project with care as Melaka plays an important historic role in the country.

When announcing the project last month, Melaka Chief Minister Datuk Sulaiman Md Ali said the initiative will be "a major economic enabler" that could generate 20,000 new jobs, reported New Straits Times.

He said his state government had consulted the federal government for the M-WEZ blueprint in terms of infrastructure planning and would present it to the National Physical Planning Council on 6 May.

Melaka Chief Minister Datuk Sulaiman Md Ali (fourth from left) studying an exhibit after announcing the M-WEZ project on 8 March.

Image via Bernama via The Vibes

Last year, the Malaysian Meteorological Department warned that one of the reasons why KL sees flooding is "unchecked overdevelopment":

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