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Restarted Forest City project ‘meets environmental standards’

JOHOR BARU — Since restarting reclamation work at the controversial Forest City development in Johor Baru in March after an eight-month hiatus over environmental concerns, readings from monitoring equipment have shown no environmental anomalies, said developer Country Garden Pacificview (CGPV) yesterday.

JOHOR BARU — Since restarting reclamation work at the controversial Forest City development in Johor Baru in March after an eight-month hiatus over environmental concerns, readings from monitoring equipment have shown no environmental anomalies, said developer Country Garden Pacificview (CGPV) yesterday.

Meanwhile, a double silt curtain has been installed to minimise the possibility of transboundary pollution affecting Singapore, CGPV said.

Speaking to TODAY in an interview, CGPV executive director Othman Yusof defended the massive reclamation project, saying that initial criticism had arisen from a lack of information and public awareness.

“All the mitigation undertaken (in the development) is very strictly monitored by the Department of Environment (DOE),” he said. “There are 15 sites for water monitoring, where samples are analysed daily and their results submitted to the DOE.”

Mr Othman said all water samples were within the ambient standard, meaning that the samples did not contain more than the maximum amount of pollutants allowed.

“We are quite confident because the quality of the sand that we use for the reclamation is very good,” he said, adding that the sand contains high amounts of nutrients that will benefit the ecology and increase marine life in the area.

Mr Othman also highlighted that CGPV had constructed a double silt curtain that minimises chances of exporting pollutants to Singapore. The double layer construction ensures that if one of the curtains break down, a backup is in place.

The pollutant readings have not been released publicly. But Mr Othman said that if the Singapore authorities want the results so as to better understand the situation, they could approach the DOE.

Reclamation work was put on hold from June last year to March this year following concerns from locals, some of whom fish in the nearby waters for a living. As the project area contained an abundance of seagrass, there were also concerns about possible damage to its marine ecology.

Singapore had also requested from Malaysia all relevant information on reclamation projects in the Straits of Johor, including the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports, in accordance with its obligations under international law and, in particular, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

CGPV was allowed to proceed after conducting a detailed hydraulic study to ensure that water flow to the seagrass would not be disrupted, as well as an EIA. The mixed land-use development was downsized from 1,978ha to 1,386ha, and the design changed from one large island to four smaller ones in order to minimise disturbances to the marine environment.

“We wanted a symbiotic relationship with nature. Once we knew about the seagrass, we knew we had to preserve it,” stressed Mr Othman, adding that the developer had conducted 20 simulation runs of the hydraulics before finalising the modified design of the development.

When asked to comment on the criticisms levelled against the Forest City project, Mr Othman said he felt they were unfair. “Because of lack of information, people came up with their own perceptions of the project.”

He also clarified that the waters adjacent to Forest City were not fishing grounds as initially believed, as they are too shallow.

He explained that due to the sensitive nature of the business information, CGPV could not afford to be completely transparent. “Not all the information can be shared with the public. Maybe that has caused some uneasy feelings,” he said.

“If you look at the project here, it is not just us who started the reclamation. Singapore has done it, especially on the Tuas side, with the heavy industries,” said Mr Othman.

“The spillover effects of the project will also be enjoyed by Singapore. I don’t see this as competing with Singapore, but more of a complement for Malaysia and Singapore.”

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