Malaysia sets new development limits on Johor's Forest City project

A view of the Second Link at Tuas from Singapore. The ambitious 1,600ha project, a joint-venture by Country Gardens and a Johor development company, involved massive reclamation off Tuas in the next 30 years. -- FILE PHOTO: ST
A view of the Second Link at Tuas from Singapore. The ambitious 1,600ha project, a joint-venture by Country Gardens and a Johor development company, involved massive reclamation off Tuas in the next 30 years. -- FILE PHOTO: ST

JOHOR BARU - China developer Country Gardens Holdings can only develop less than a quarter of its planned Forest City project in Johor Strait, under new limits set by Malaysia's Department of Environment.

The company was informed verbally about the new limits (405ha), Malaysian Insider has reported, after complaints from locals and the Singapore government over reclamation works in the narrow waterway between Malaysian and the city state.

"The DOE has decided to limit the project to the first phase and wait for a few years to see the impact before looking at future phases," the Malaysian Insider quoted a source as saying. An official letter about the decision will be sent to the relevant parties soon, the source said.

The ambitious 1,600ha project, a joint-venture by Country Gardens and a Johor development company, involved massive reclamation off Tuas in the next 30 years. The man-made island was going to measure nearly three times the size of Ang Mo Kio estate and was to offer luxury homes in the Johor Strait.

Singapore had raised the issue of reclamation works near its sea border which would effect its coastal areas. Evidence to the same, in the form of videos and documentary proof, was presented to the Malaysian environmental authorities during the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Commission on Environment (MSJCE) which met last month, another source told the Malaysian Insider.

The reclamation works had also affected Malaysia's nearby key transhipment hub, the Port of Tanjung Pelepas.

Last September, the Johor government said it wanted the developer to comply with the Environmental Impact Assessment. Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin had said it was important to ensure issues such as the environment were given full attention and regulations were adhered to.

A public dialogue on the detailed impact assessment of the City in September last year had turned chaotic, after the developers were bombarded with inquiries from locals who were worried about environment pollution and jeopardy to the area's marine ecology.

Country Gardens Holdings, the parent company of the developers, is China's seventh-largest property developer with a market capitalisation of HK$63 billion (S$10.8 billion) as of Dec 31, 2014.