Opening Speech by Lim Guan Eng, Penang Chief Minister cum Chairman of Penang Green Council on 15 January 2018 during Symposium on Sustainable Penang at Auditorium A, KOMTAR:
Good morning and welcome to the Symposium on Sustainable Penang, titled “Can Penang be Made Sustainable by 2030?”
Penang was hit by the worst floods in the state’s history in November last year. Due to the unusual heavy rainfall of up to a record 372mm, the fiercest storm winds ever seen in Penang’s history at 40 miles per hour (64kmph), where the ferry was even lifted up and pushed inland and the flood had caused the lives of 7 people.
The 15-hour storm had paralysed the island state, triggering a mega flood and uprooted trees, claiming seven lives, 12,662 victims, involving 3,068 families were evacuated and many more were affected by the floods. We are thankful to be able to get Penang back on its feet with the help of the state and federal departments, Malaysian Armed Forces, PDRM, BOMBA, NGOs, private companies, Malaysians and Penangites stood together with us.
In only 10 days, Penang bounced back and was cleaned up. The Penang Hill train resumed service after being out for 51 days because of the rainstorm that caused 194 landslides and cut off roads to the Hill. Taking only 51 days to repair is a remarkable success, when many had expected the repair works to take 12 months. Flood waters had receded quickly attesting to the improved drainage works. Our sustainability is further proven when it is only in undeveloped and not developed areas where landslides occur such as Penang Hill where alone suffered 194 landslides even though there is no development in Penang Hill. Luckily there were no casualties from the landslides.
The quality of Penang talent is evident amongst the private sector that has transformed Penang into a global world-class cluster for manufacturing, especially electronics and medical devices industry. This is evident when Penang came out tops in Malaysia in manufacturing investment for the first 6 months of 2017.
However the quality of Penang talent now extends to the civil service. 10 years of CAT governance of competency, accountability and transparency have the desired effect of turning Penang into a cleaner, greener, healthier and safer state. CAT governance has also improved our financial health with annual budget surpluses, doubling of asset reserves and reduction of our state debts by a record 90%. The UNESCO World Heritage city of George Town is recognised as one of the best in Asia under our management to preserve, protect and promote our heritage sites.
These successes have attracted global attention until they have head-hunted our Penang City Council Mayor Dato Maimunah bt Mohd Sharif to be the new Executive Director of the UN Habitat organisation. Dato Maimunah is the first Asian and woman to head the UN Habitat, a major achievement that has brought pride not only to Penang but also to Malaysia.
We in Penang give equal priority to gender equality and opportunity as well as fighting climate change. Based on the NAHRIM (National Hydraulic Research Institute of Malaysia) report, global temperature rises from 1901-2012 is between 0.69 – 1.08 degree celcius; while the global sea level rises from 1901-2010 is between 1.7mm – 2.1mm. Many small island states are threatened by rising sea levels. Penang Island possesses most of the small island characteristic and is also exposed to these environmental challenges like extreme weathers and flash floods.
Penang State Government has a vision of making Penang a “Cleaner, Greener, Safer, Healthier, and Happier”. Since 2010, we kicked start a series of environmental initiatives to promote resource efficiency such as free city bus services, No Free Plastic Bags Every day, total ban on polystyrene food containers, bike share system, we are in the process of replacing 20,000 lamp post with LED lights by 2020. Not only do we give incentives to Green Buildings Index Certified projects, the government also leads by example. Even the affordable housing project in SP Cheliah is a GBI certified project. As part of the people’s welfare, Penang’s water rates remain the cheapest in the country. However, we also imposed water conservation surcharge to encourage responsible consumption behaviour.
In terms of Waste Segregation at Source policy, Penang has achieved the highest recycling rate in the country of 38% as compared to the national recycling rate of 22% and we hope to increase the recycling rate to 40% by 2020. All developers must segregate their construction waste in future projects. We hope all the government offices will be certified as Penang Green Office by 2020.
We are the first state to oppose Nuclear power energy plants in Malaysia and will continue to do so. We hope that Malaysia will abandon its plans to build 2 nuclear energy plants. We will not permit any nuclear energy reactors to be built in Penang and the Federal Government has agreed to our decision. Penang will remain nuclear free.
We are making an attempt to set another example of revitalising old buildings. This year, KOMTAR Revitalisation has achieved the most highly recognised and respected award in Malaysia’s construction industry, namely the prestigious Malaysian Construction Industry Excellence Award (MCIEA) 2017 by the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB). We are looking at retrofitting KOMTAR to become a GBI-certified, energy-efficient building. We have started the pilot project of KOMTAR Retrofit in December 2017.
We have completed Penang Public Transport Master Plan in 2013 to improve connectivity through low carbon transportation; we have also planned for a total 350km (island- 179km, mainland- 171km) of bicycle lanes. Under Penang Bicycle Route Masterplan costing approximately RM27.27 million, which will be partly financed by the private sector. We are also preparing the Penang Public Park Plan, Solid Waste Management Masterplan and Flood Mitigation Masterplan. From 2008 to 2017, we spent 77% or RM2.3 billion of our development funds in Seberang Perai, mainland Penang, which has more rural areas, to ensure balanced development.
We had never allowed logging on permanent forest reserves and we are proud that Penang is the only state in Malaysia where not a single square inch has been touched. And we have planted more than 271,000 new trees in Penang since 2008. Penang State Government has also stopped serving shark fin soup to protect our natural biodiversity.
The Penang State Government is formulating strategies to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), to adapt and build resilient community in Penang by 2030.
The agenda is a two-year policy planning project, spearheaded by PGC’s directors Dato’ Dr. Leong Yueh Kwong and Dato’ Renji Sathiah.The symposium today is part of the stakeholder consultation process; we have conducted the first stage of the stakeholder consultation through workshops, focus group discussion, roadshows and public survey in 2017.
The symposium with the two-day sessions with the key stakeholders of Penang is intended to generate inputs and discuss strategies to make Penang a green and sustainable state by 2030.
Penang aspires to become a smart and intelligent international city, therefore we must ensure our vision, targets and goals are in line with the international standards. We hope that the Penang Green Agenda serves as guidelines and provides directions pertaining action plans for the future of Penang in terms of economic growth with environmental sustainability.
Thank you all for coming together today to realise Penang’s vision of being the first green state in Malaysia. Let’s make Penang a cleaner, greener, safer, healthier and happier state.
Lim Guan Eng