Scenes of Penang’s old-world charm like these may soon be a thing of the past, as it goes through a transformation that will completely change its landscape.

As much as I hate to admit it, owning a classic motorcycle has been my biggest headache since I bought one years ago.

But, then again, the motorcycle has never ceased to thrill me more than anything else.

Never mind that it occasionally takes forever to kick-start it, and the fact that it has given me endless nightmares with oil leakage, overflowing carburetor and other issues, my 350cc BSA has never failed to turn heads wherever I ride it.

And, I have ridden it all over from Alor Star, Malacca, Penang and now
in Kuala Lumpur. Truthfully, this fabulous machine of mine has also broken down in all the states, but that is another story for some other day.

Yes, the motorcycle was an awesome machine in its day and it still remains so until today.

However, due to practical reasons, the machine which was made in England in the early 1960s has now been relegated as my second bike, one that I ride when the mood and timing are right.

Talking of Alor Star, Malacca and Penang, all three are charming states which used to have that lovely “old-world feel” that just grows on you.

I say, “used to have” as the feeling is no more. It is gone.

The last time I returned to Penang about two years ago, a good friend who was born on the island and has been living there all his life made a passing remark that I didn’t pay much heed to then.

However, I now wish I had taken what he had said more seriously.

I should have followed his advice and spent a little more time on the island taking a good look at all the places that make Penang the island it is.

For soon, most of the things that make the island a magnet which draws people from all the world will be gone forever.

Penang is not going to be “Penang” anymore.

The island has changed, is changing and will be completely transformed in the next few years.

Like it or not, the old feel of Penang is gone.

The green hills which dot the island have been and are continuously being hacked bare and cleared for the never-ending number of high rise condominiums and multi-million ringgit bungalows.

Daggy old shophouses which gave George Town its unique character have mostly been refurnished into trendy cafes, bars and boutique hotels.

The latest development being planned is on Gurney Drive, where the state government looks set to develop a 1.5km-long water-fronting public recreation area, known as Gurney Wharf.

Over at Green Lane, the tree-lined Scotland Road will soon be devoid of much of the greenery as the state government adamantly pushes to widen roads on the island.

After all, “what are 18 trees” as the chief minister said when retorting to criticisms over removal of trees for the road project.

Yes, Penang has changed so much that visits to the once charming city now are like getting reacquainted with an old flame, instantly familiar, but somehow different.

The situation is no different in Alor Star, and especially Malacca, albeit on a smaller scale compared with Penang. It is said that places which never change will wither and die.

But surely, too much of change, especially of the wrong kind, can also be equally disastrous.

In Penang’s case, not all change is for the better and the island is being stripped of its innocence and charm.

Some people have described what is happening on the island to “dark forces” barging in uninvited and taking over.

However, Penangites being Penangites are not so easily defeated.

Some of the people are not throwing in the towel just yet.

Several environmental groups and many individuals — including those from the chief minister’s own party, like Tanjung Bungah assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu, have already started making their voices heard.

The circumstances may paint a bleak picture, and the task of fighting against a state government which is bent on bulldozing its development plans through is undeniably daunting to say the least.

However, history has shown that it can be done.

It happened in the early 1990s when environmental groups along with the people rose in unison against plans to develop Penang Hill.

It can happen again if the people feel strongly against those who are bent on destroying Penang for their own selfish gains.

Sharanjit Singh is a veteran journalist who feels less talk and more action is needed to save planet Earth from mankind

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