A planned Malaysian city near Singapore may not live up to its “liveable eco-city” billing after all.
Environmentalists are protesting the development of Forest City, a project that was put on hiatus in 2015 due to ecological concerns and has since resumed, spelling disaster for marine life and fishermen’s livelihood in the area.
“It has the potential to change the ecology of the whole area in profound ways,” Greenpeace scientist Paul Johnston said.
“It might change the things that are living there, it might change the vegetation that can grow there.”
Forest City involves land reclamation on a massive scale, requiring around 162 million cubic metres of sand to be dumped on four Malaysian islands around the Johor Strait, close to Singapore.
At high risk is the Merambong Shoal, which covers Malaysia’s largest intertidal seagrass meadow, an important habitat for underwater fauna.
Country Garden Pacific View, the joint venture between Chinese developer Country Garden and Esplanade Danga 88, a firm partly owned by Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar, conceded in an environmental study that “permanent loss of traditional fishing ground” may arise from the development.
However, Country Garden Pacific View executive director Mohamad Othman Yusof said that the reclamation was approved on the back of some 20 simulation studies. In addition, Forest City used “double silt curtains” to keep silt and sediment from spreading throughout the seabed.
Forest City’s size has been downsized to 1,370 hectares from 2,000 hectares (5,000 acres).
Costing SGD56 billion (USD42 billion), Forest City will come with 700,000 residential units upon its 2035 completion. In its first phase, the city will offer some 482 condominium units and 132 serviced apartments, along with hotels, shopping malls, schools, and convention centres, all within a duty-free zone.
Forest City officials have claimed pre-sales of 500 units, mainly to mainland Chinese buyers. Analysts are concerned that such a demographic would be a bleak prospect though, in light of China’s slowing economy and the Chinese government’s recent clampdown on capital outflows.
Citing risks from aggressive land acquisitions, Standard & Poor’s has taken a “cautious” stance on Forest City. The financial services company assigned a long-term corporate rating of “BB” from “BB+” on Country Garden in March.
This story was originally published on www.property-report.com on 1 August 2016