KUALA LUMPUR – Hundreds of fishermen from Penang and Perak gathered on Thursday (July 11) near Malaysia’s Parliament to protest plans for 1,821-hectare man-made islands at the border of the two northern states which they say will curtail the livelihoods of about 10,000 colleagues.
The reclamation was approved by the Department of Environment (DoE) last week with 72 conditions, having been in limbo since 2015.
The Penang South Reclamation (PSR) – larger even than Forest City close to the Johor-Singapore border – was mooted as a way to fund the RM46 billion (S$15.1 billion) Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) by selling artificial islands in Teluk Kumbar.
“Our catch will reduce because the reclamation will ruin the seabed. Prices of seafood will soar,” Consumers Association of Penang president Mohideen Abdul Kader told the rally gathered at the National Monument, half a kilometre from Parliament. The group later marched to Parliament to hand over a memorandum containing a list of demands. These include cancellation of the reclamation, review of the PTMP and a moratorium on sand mining off Perak’s coast.
“Why would we agree if our rice bowl is filled with sand?”, Penang Fishermen’s Association chairman Nazri Ahmad told the rally.
Activists, some of whom also joined the protest on Thursday, have said the reclamation will cause damage to the marine ecology in the surrounding waters of the Malacca Strait while the transport master plan will do the same to the island state’s environment without properly solving its traffic woes.
The transport blueprint is Malaysia’s most expensive infrastructure project, involving highways, an undersea tunnel and various rail links.
Despite the DoE approval, Agriculture and Agro-Based Industries Minister Salahuddin Ayub has assured fishermen that the federal government will take all stakeholders’ interests into account before approving the Penang state administration’s plans.
Prior to the landmark May 9 election last year, the project by the Democratic Action Party-led state failed to move forward, allegedly due to obstruction by the Barisan Nasional federal government which held power over financial, transport planning and environmental approvals.
But all these ministries are now helmed by DAP ministers, and the Pakatan Harapan (PH) alliance it leads in Penang holds all but three of the 40 wards in the state legislative.