Thousands of fishermen will be affected by massive land reclamation activity

OhTongKeong20151217 Penang Reclamation Project Permatang Damar Laut BIPENANG – Penang Gerakan has appealed to all the NGOs concerned with environmental protection and the relevant fishermen associations to not take lightly the issue of massive land reclamation to be carried out in the Penang Sea.

Penang Gerakan Secretary Oh Tong Keong said there should not be any compromise with the state government on this crucial matter before an independent and detailed EIA Report on the projects is ready.

Oh reiterated that the Penang Barisan Nasional, as the opposition front, will play its role responsibly by closely monitoring the situation.

He stressed that there is no reason for BN and Penang Gerakan to object against the Penang Traffic Master Plan (PTMP) if it could resolve the traffic congestion problems of Penang because the proposed 3 major highways and the LRT or MRT are in line with the transportation master plan of PORR & monorail projects which was mooted by the former State BN state government.

Ironically, at that time, the DAP, which was then in the opposition, had strongly objected plan. The only differences now are the Undersea Tunnel, the tramps and the reclamation of the man-made islands.

Oh said the massive and extensive reclamation of 4,000 acres of land in the sea which is being bulldozed by the current state government and relating it to using the funds collected for the PTMP is a very serious matter and needs public scrutiny and approval.

Such massive reclamation to be carried out will adversely affect the ecological environment and sea life in the surrounding areas. The change in the tides movement, the change in the directions of the sea water flow, the change in the conditions of the seabed will definitely affect the produce of the marine creatures and the relevant seafood production.

It is therefore not proper for the state government to make slipshod decision before the detailed analysis and studies of the EIA are completed. It is also unethical for the relevant authorities to use non transparent means to mislead the detractors of the proposed land reclamation projects.

On the same note, Oh said that a few days ago, Batu Maung state assemblyman Dato’ Abdul Malik Abdul Kassim seemed to be happy after having met about 90 fishermen from Permatang Damar Laut Jetty, who pledged their support for the proposed reclamation projects.

However, last Sunday, Penang people witnessed a different scenario when more than one thousand fishermen from the southern part of Penang Island staged a mass demonstration to protest against the land reclamation projects. Their protest dented an attempt by the state authority to make use of the fishermen in Permatang Damar Laut to whitewash this controversial issue.

Oh pointed out the 1,000 over protesters are truly fishermen who depend on marine creatures’ resources for their livelihood and they are not “fools” who could easily be deceived by rhetoric talks.

“Don’t take their grievances lightly and make the slipshod decision to approve the land reclamation projects before completion of the independent EIA report on these projects.”

He said, obviously the 1,000 over agonizing fishermen speak louder than the other 90 fishermen, and the state authority should listen to their grievances and re-evaluate any project which can threaten not only the livelihood of the fishermen concerned but has far reaching impacts and implication of the future livelihood of the people in Penang.

He said the Penang government should not blame the fishermen community for opposing the projects because they were caught by surprise as they were not informed or consulted before the projects were made known to the public. The state authority has never sought to interact with them neither getting feedback from this group of low-income earners.

Their worries are valid because the land reclamation projects will definitely create adverse impact on the marine creatures’ resources and the adverse ecological impacts on the seabed will definitely and directly threaten their livelihood and the fishing industry.

Oh said most of them are second or third generation fishermen who depend on sea catches as a source of family incomes, therefore any move by the state authority to approve the reclamation works without proper evaluation of the impact on the ecological environment essentially for the breeding of the marine creatures will directly threaten the livelihood of the fishermen community.