Who damages the environment, developers or the government?
Truth be told, developers need strong governments to do environmental damage.
The real source of environmental problems is governments that are too powerful, not developers. Some developers will “dock” onto those powers, and grow spectacularly from nowhere. That’s why you don’t see developers that are “born” powerful, but grow over a decade when it has successfully become the “chief crony.”
The solution is to reduce government powers, by:
1) creating more laws (a self-contradiction),
2) reducing laws and regulations,
3) using elections to split representational power (strengthen the Opposition),
4) restructuring government to devolve and decentralise power (local elections, creating more districts and regions).
Blaming the vague concept of any “developers” will bring us nowhere, because it doesn’t address the source of power and corruption. All aggressive developers will self-destruct in time, take for example the original developers for Queensbay Mall and Gurney Plaza. In fact, they self-destruct AFTER destroying the environment and living quality.
But by then new crony developers will have arisen, so long as the same government powers remain. The focus should holding the government in check.
The reason that reclamation is such a great source of environmental problems and corruption is that the government is entrusted to “own” the sea, without question. You might ask: Then who should “own” the sea? That is another debate altogether.
Reclamation does not “create space”. It only REPLACES space – of certain water depth with sand. But government acts as though it was a “void” that costs nothing to give away, so any pittance that the crony developers offer will be a “win” and positive for state coffers. Academics never question that, assuming existing laws must be the truth.
It is always “public” space that is more dirty and abused than “private” space. Reclamation is worse, because it is not even recognised as a space before it is given away for nearly free – like there is no opportunity cost. So seahorses and mangrove grounds are seen as trash with no value.
My point is this: Always watch and check government powers, not developers. Government power is playing havoc for some of these reasons.
With regards to Penang, in the last 10 years of the Gerakan government, it was so weak it couldn’t do much damage to the state’s environment. How can we repeat that?
By: KS Cheah