GEORGE TOWN (Feb 1, 2010): Abnormal sedimentation in the wake of reclamation along Penang’s coastlines may have contributed to drastic changes in tidal currents in the Penang Channel and sea around the state.
A source told theSun that a marine study commissioned by the state indicated that reclamation work had brought about significant siltation to affect the natural hydro-flow of Penang’s coastal waters.
It is learnt that the study by the National Hydraulic Research Institute of Malaysia indicated that sea currents had had to change direction, pushing mud to be deposited along the island’s north-eastern coast and the Penang Channel.
The report in particular pointed to the Gurney Drive coastline and mud deposits after large-scale reclamation nearby.
It also addressed pollution at Split Head, at the mouth of the Prai River, where unauthorised dumping of mud by certain agencies may have caused backflow in the river to bring about serious flooding in inland areas.
It is understood that the state has since been in contact with these agencies to discuss alternative measures.
The findings of the study -- whose methodology included scrutinising computerised simulation programmes of hydro-flow patterns during different tidal periods -- were forwarded to the state in the middle of last year, the source said.
The study was mooted after the state received complaints about increasing coastal pollution, including in remote places like Balik Pulau and Pantai Kerachut.
Inshore fishermen who ply the Penang Channel said recently they had observed changing currents over the last 10 years.
In a report on Jan 19, theSun had quoted fishermen as saying they had seen certain stretches becoming shallower about the same time that reclamation had taken place there, while middle sections of the channel remained deep.
The affected areas include the vicinity of the site of a dragon boat training accident on Jan 17, in which five students and a teacher were killed when their boat with 18 people was hit by waves. Survivors recounted being pulled down by powerful undercurrents.
It is understood that the state has considered various remedial measures following the report, including ways to induce sea water to flow back into the Gurney Drive coastline.
One option is to employ suction engines to remove accumulated mud from the shoreline, the source said.
Another is to build artificial islands in front of Gurney Drive in such a way as to divert hydro-flow into the bay and prevent further mud siltation.
The state is also looking into the feasibility of planting mangroves along the shoreline and constructing a pier through the trees, from Gurney Drive into the sea, the source added.
There is also concern over the possible impact on hydro-flow, of a RM353 million channel deepening project by the Transport Ministry to allow large ships in, and the construction of the Second Penang Bridge. -- theSun