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Tea Leaves

One island is enough for Penang

Malaysian state's offshore reclamation plans risk environmental disaster

Protesters show their opposition to the Penang South Reclamation project, a controversial Penang State government scheme to build new islands off the coast, in November 2019. (Courtesy of Penang Tolak Tambak)

GEORGE TOWN, Malaysia -- I have called the northwestern Malaysian island of Penang my home for the past 12 years, entranced by its multiethnic heritage and relatively low-key profile. The rugged forests that clad the Penang Hill area in the island's center and northwestern corner, have been my playground during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But there is another side to my island home: rampant gentrification and overdevelopment. So I breathed a sigh of relief on June 16 when I learned that the Malaysian federal government may seek to withdraw environmental impact assessment approval for the Penang South Reclamation project, a controversial Penang State government scheme to build new islands off the coast.

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