Land reclamation: The winners … and the losers


Property magnates are profiting from a spate of lucrative land reclamation projects around the country – but in Penang, a body representing the concerns of fisherfolk are concerned about the effects of land reclamation, pollution, siltation and erosion in coastal areas and rivers.

From left, Ilyas Shafie, Pifwa chairperson, along with the deputy chairperson, treasurer and a committee member expressing their concern about land reclamation and sea pollution in Penang
From left, Ilyas Shafie, Pifwa chairperson, along with the deputy chairperson, treasurer and a committee member expressing their concern about land reclamation and sea pollution in Penang

Forbes has just carried a feature: ‘Malaysia’s newest billionaire mints money from reclaiming land and selling dreams’ in Johor.

Others like him have followed the same path, their firms acquiring land reclamation rights on the cheap and profiting immensely from the building of multi-million ringgit waterfront homes and condos. I am told some waterfront homes are now going for as much as RM15m!

Not surprisingly, some of these firms are laughing their way to the bank.

But not everyone is a winner.

Fisherfolk in Penang, for instance, are increasingly concerned about the effects of land reclamation on their livelihoods and the fisheries sector.

A couple of colleagues and I met up with representatives of the Persatuan Nelayan Pantai Pulau Pinang (Penang Inland Fishermen’s Association or Pifwa) over the weekend to listen to their concerns.

We met at the Pifwa premises in the semi-rural town of Sungai Acheh on mainland Penang – a place which reminded me of Balik Pulau about 20 years ago. Green paddy fields, coconut trees, children playing badminton outside their kampong houses.

We were warmly welcomed by Pifwa chairman, Ilyas Shafie, a soft-spoken middle-aged man with a short crop of white hair and a bushy moustache, and a few of his fellow committee members, a couple of whom had weather-beaten features, skin tanned by the sun, evidence of a lifetime’s hard work at sea or along inland rivers.

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ilyas shafie
Ilyas Shafie, Pifwa chairperson

Ilyas told us Penang is home to some 10000 fisherfolk, including about 4000-5000 regular full-timers.

These fisherfolk are increasingly experiencing tough times.

He listed several concerns felt by the fishing communities on the island and the mainland.

More and more, land reclamation is jeopardising or destroying breeding grounds for fish in the coastal waters of Penang.

As a result, more fisherfolk face the loss of productive fishing areas. The effects of these shrinking waters for fishing are being felt in areas far away from the actual land reclamation site – for example, along the coastal stretch at Bagan Ajam on the mainland all the way north to Penaga.

Land reclamation is also changing coastal tidal patterns and currents, claimed Ilyas. This has affected coastal stretches, causing erosion and siltation.

One of the Pifwa commmitte members claimed that the siltation at Changkat Sungai Jawi had reduced the depth of the river from 15 feet to just five feet, stretching out both his arms horizontally to illustrate the depth. This siltation, he felt, could be due to the impact of the construction of the second Penang Bridge. He claimed that when the bridge was being constructed, the wrong target groups of “fishermen” were initially consulted – those fisherfolk whose fishing areas were further away (Juru?) or part-timers who did not rely heavily on coastal fishing for their livelihoods.

The fisherfolk also complained about pollution of the rivers and seas as a result of industrial pollution, household waste and sewage. The state government may have come up with a No Plastic Bags policy, but the waters around Pulau Jerejak, for instance, are choked with plastic bags.

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“Each time a taman is built, a lot of untreated water – household waste, detergents and other chemicals – then flow into drains which then discharge the untreated water into the rivers,” complained a Pifwa office-bearer.

As a result of all these factors, fish catches have shrunk. Not only has this resulted in loss of income for the fisherfolk, fish prices have soared. “People think of the higher fish prices, but they don’t realise our fish catch has dwindled,” one of them said.

So it is not just the fisherfolk who are the losers, the public too are losers as they are forced to buy fish at rocketing prices from waters that are polluted and compromised, say the fisher folks’ reps.

The Pifwa reps say Penang now had to import the bulk of its fish requirements from Thailand – though they believe some of the imported fish from Thailand actually originates from countries such as India, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

My thoughts:

We should do more to improve our food security, for there might come a time when other countries might be reluctant to export fish to us.

The supreme irony is that Penang is surrounded by sea water and has one of the largest patches of sea grass in the peninsula – a fertile breeding ground for fish. There is thus absolutely no reason for Penang not to be self-sufficient in fish.

Perhaps the fisheries sector is not seen as ‘glamorous’ enough in the minds of our economic planners and strategists – even though fish is an essential food item that is beneficial for health. And when it comes to a toss up between the interests of the fisherfolk and those of Big Business, it is a no-brainer whose interests will carry the day.

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And then we continue to wonder why fish prices are soaring?!

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  1. Despite the absence of an EIA report and a call for intervention by Singapore, two massive reclamation projects are well underway in the Johor straits that separate Malaysia and the island republic, near the 2nd Link. The coastal reclamation work stretching over 1,817ha is by China Developer Country Garden Pacific View and is dubbed as the Forest City.

    One of the directors of Country Garden Pacific View is Datuk Daing A. Malek Daing A. Rahaman, who is believed to be a long-time friend of the Sultan of Johor and is a member of the council of the Royal Court of Advisers to the Sultan.

    Unfortunately, there is no environmentally-conscious bloggers like Anil in Johor to raise the alarm.

    • So, Penang is not alone in reclamation controversy. The case in Johor may be a bit more complicated as it could involve certain powerful individuals.

  2. could not even sustain your livelihood?
    Please learn to live within your means with your BR1M, and shop at KR1M and not Gurney Paragon.
    Watch TV1, TV2m TV3, TV9, NTV7 & 8TV and do not spend on Astro subscription.
    Read Anil’s blog for news and terminate your subscription of The Star.

    Expensive houses are a common phenomena in every Malaysian cities or big town.
    Sungai Petani is a good alternative for lower cost living.

    • I think it is OK to go to Gurney Paragon to see the Transformers.
      But you need to spend at least RM100 in order to take pictures of the Transformers.
      Maybe tunglang can use his telephoto lens to shoot with his Nikon without having to pay?

      How to live within one means with RM900 per month?
      Go ask your BN rep as they have promised high income nation, in 6 years time.

  3. Sandisk to open its manufacturing plant in Batu Kawan.
    More jobs for Penangites.
    tunglang should look at the bright side of life under CAT.

    • How could Tunglang look at the bright sides under CAT when the jobs that could not even sustain your livelihood that come with higher land prices that come with more UNAFFORDABLE houses and more expensive rental that come with more expensive food and which come with more destroying of our environment that come with less quality of lives with the swarming of Vietnamese, Myanmar ,Indonesian and illegals that will bring in even more problems. Anyway no job is better than none for the poor Malays and Indian who are usually the lower paid one in the manufacturing sector.

    • No sure if Sandisk open manufac here just b’cos of overflow of English speaking Bangla, Vietnamese cheap foreign workers. And salary scale compare-to-foreign-worker’s-for-hardball-take-it-or-leave-it-negotiation at interviews of local aspirants?
      Can I SanDisk Extreme SDHC UHS-I Cards at cheap-labored prices?

      This is my one concern (just as Yang’s) for young Penangite workers:
      state gone can think out of the CAT box to strategize implementing affordable homes for the young & single Penangite workers thro’ collaboration with developers & financial institutions. These buyers of so-called CAT Workers’ Homes cannot sell to others (to reap maxi-profit) except to up & other coming young Penangite workers. The caveat should not have loopholes for both developers & buyers to exploit which will defeat the purpose of providing affordable homes for these young Penangite workers. This hopefully will help ease the financial burden, which may lead to enslavement by banks & help improve the purchasing power of these young workers.
      Another job related note:
      How about helping Penangite entrepreneurs by providing more affordable rental spaces (just like MPPP’s cheap rentals of shop lots)?
      Or local entrepreneurs – investors meet-&-talk to open up more opportunities to do business. Putting an online Penang Idea Banks (proposals) by state gomen is one way to go forward to more business ventures & R+D initiatives.

      • How much yang’ s bn government give to state government and yet, you want the state government to act like federal government. Yang’s bn federal government take over the the rapid bus which and tunglang they take a long time to come. what is the federal government doing to allow bangla, Nepalese, indon to come in and take over local jobs? Why federal government promote unis and not vocational schools and train young ones?

      • Najib launched the PR1MA Teluk Intan.
        Unfortunately it is not landed terrace houses but big block of highly density building.
        Did you see how dense it is?

        Teluk Intan folks was promised a university.
        But to their disappointment it turned out to be just a ‘cawangan’ of university pendidikan!
        Now Gerakan can tell Teluk Intan folks to make teaching a career.
        Surely those MCA/Gerakan folks could make money renting out their houses to the students as they have done for UTAR students.

      • Anil
        It seems like new manufacturing activities are now in mainland of Batu Kawan. Is the Penang island is focusing now more on service sector?

      • I think they are focusing a lot on BPO and high-end property development on the island.

  4. See, ram karpal helped in the body snatching…

    Bersyukur la seteruk teruknya Dap pakatan is any time better than the useless gerakan and mca.

    See, a chinese cementery is to be dug out to make way for highways and this poor guy walked 500 km to see mca’s vice president, mr wee wee and gerakan’s head, newly elected mr mah from teruk intan.

    Mr wee wee smiled and walked away when approached by the gentleman while ah mah quickly brushed off by saying he had an appointment to attend. Habis la those chinese voted for ah mah…

    While Ram karpal and his brother they had time for the deceased’s family in time of need but gerakan and mca ???

      • i saw ram Karpal the other day, and he was patiently listening to me, and I asked how much was his consultation fee, and he smiled and said no.

        I saw one before for the same matter, and I was charged a consultation fee.

        If you really care for the deceased family go and ask how much he charge.

      • Frankly speaking I think its wrong. If it is not because of JAIPP do you think the mother would get the 20k. Did the family got the money because it is deserving or because of the political mileage the situation can do for DAP & LGE. I am not against helping the needy but there are more deserving cases and this case is not of a family that is in need but a situation in need of religious awareness and competency

  5. tunglang, please don’t always harp on the Merz as it only show one’s small mindedness, says a friend.

    what is a Merz for a cm compared to the billions siphoned off ??? And the Merz was bought openly.

    • Cock and bull story by DAP Tony Pua, cock and bull tales by PKR Rafizi without a shredd of evidence. Show it and bring them to court otherwise ask them just shut up

      • I once really like to read Tony Pua, Rafizi, Anwar, LGE, LKS, Azmin, Khalid, Tian Chua and a host of others. The M Chronicle is even worse. After so many years I finally realize it is just cock and bull tales to influence and brainwash the people mind. Up to now despite all their allegation, they have never ever tried to bring the govt or leaders to book although having proof and evidence as alleged

        Are Pakatan, DAP,PKR and PAS not the same and one as BN. Look at Khalid now. Look at the CAT in Penang. Its a good example of how they shoved everything inside the carpet. 5 years they have already achieved almost 50% of BN. Give them another 10 or 20 years, hah, they will be 10 times worse than BN.

        Hudud and Allah is one good example.
        For 53 years under Allinace and then BN, do you see any problem of hudud and Allah. If BN UMNO wanted to implement it they could have done it long ago, is it not. But why NO, because BN UMNO and 18 parties have always considered our country a secular one.

        Pakatan 1 term in Penang and Selangor is enough to create such a chaos of hudud and Allah and they tried to blame it on BN and UMNO. Who is the one that really want hudud PAS. Does DAP have the balls to stop it. They ask MCA to resign from BN when it is not UMNO that initiate it. Yet theyl continue to sleep with PAS. Is not that illogical or rightly boh hood

        Wake up to the antic of PAS and the boh hood LGE DAP. If DAP and the CAT really have the hood, they would not have passed enactment 35 that prohibit the use of Allah and 35 words by non muslim.

      • RM 1.00 used to be equal to SGD 1.00 in the early 70s.
        Now RM 1.00 is only worth SGD 0.38.
        This is happening under BN administration.
        We need no shred of evidence.

      • Kelty : Using this to compare the state of economy or standard of the people is not correct.. How would you take it that Hong Kong dollars is now 42 Hong Kong dollars to 1 Malaysian ringgit when it was on par in the 70s. Does it means that the state of economy of HK and people are lower than us.

      • Yang. You bluff lie about statistics. You do not know how to read the value of hkd against ringgit in 1970.

    • kee, I thought you need 10 reliable witnesses in order (or is it by order of CAT) to ‘hudud’ my use of Merc irritating to the point of ringing in the tiny ears of CAT & its Followers.

      Drink more Sia Boey Chinese Tea (not Sushi King Tea) to calm down + meditate to the point of tolerance of small matters. Or just sing Shalom, Shalom (Peace be upon me).

    • Yesterday night I was telling my wife. The DAP and their supporters would be using this for their propaganda. Indeed it is right. Before even Ram come in, the Syariah court would be making a decision on Wed or Thurs if I am not mistaken based on evidence and witnesses presented. They rightly gave out a decision based on evidence, proof and witnesses. It has nothing to do with Ram or Mah. They are just there for photo and propaganda to gain political mileage.

      The other day Lau took the mother to see Jardip. Jardip told the mother I am no more a practicing lawyer but I will recommend you one. And indeed he recommended one, his brother Ram. This Syariah court decision is not based on any affidavit of Ram because Civil court lawyer cannot participate in Syariah court matters. Its just that the religious department and syariah court have already set a date for a decision to be made and they did it right. It show that the BN are following the rules and law of the country. This fellow is really a jerk.

  6. As a regular reader at, i kind of worry for tunglang in his present state of mind. has become tunglang’s avenue to let go his frustration as evident form his posting in early wee hours (1am) – could not get to sleep unless let go his steam?
    As a concerned fellow reader, i sincerely hope Anil can approach tunglang to find out the root cause of his outbursts (CAT may just be the mirror of true root cause?).
    Anil, what say you ?

    • Thanks for your concern, Priyanka. My sense is that he is fine, just frustrated with the loss of the old Penang as a result of the property centric development for the top 5 percent taking place around us. Many others share that frustration.

      • many are frustrated but better channel that energy to something more productive and positve ?
        today’s penang shall be the old one in years to come…….

      • I think we are also losing something in the process – the socio-cultural bonds, a simpler, less superficial lifestyle (not based on consumerism) — the loss of a sense of community and of (historical) place (apart from the environmental damage), without which life becomes “soulless” – if you know what I mean?

      • Anil, when the young ones migrate to work and with so many talents went south to be ministers and somebody, penang can just say that minister is born in penang. Penang becomes souless. First, there must be people and young ones, because they are active and like to be recognised a sense of belonging to a group otherwise, penang find retirees waiting for the day.

    • Priyanka, the Prihatin. Lovely kind of you to worry for me.

      My state of mind fluxes from tranquility in Belum to cat-anxiety @ Coast-Mud-Politan Penang Island.

      Frustration? That’s an over statement formed from over-imagination after a cup of tea(?)

      Is 1am writing alarming? Then writers should hit the beds early like obedient school kids.

      Root cause or root beer or Tongkat Ali (an aphrodisiac jungle root). I prefer the last one which keeps me alert & strong in the wee-wee hours to ‘let go’ real hot steam!

      Avenue for outbursts? is still the best & better than black cake demo or fainting in front of MercS300Lansi.

      Mirror, mirror on the toilet wall, what’s that Komtar CAT swapping next?

      What say you playing Ravi Shankar trance-like sitar music in the wee-wee hours?

  7. Development came with a price.
    However, in the words of Triple H on WWE’s Raw last nite on Astro Supersport: ‘Adapt or Perish’ in reference to those wrestlers who do not like the ‘new world order’ in WWE where the focus is now on ‘what is good for business’.
    The fishermen should consider fish commercial farming as an alternative as the fish stock in the ocean is depleting? There is opportunity in every crisis, right?
    ps: I doubt tunglang will ever go to Belum as there is no petrol station for his 4WD.

  8. There is a price to pay for progress. I don’t think Anil will have a blog if he grew up in Laos or Burma. Also surprised to see tunglang still haven’t moved to belum.

    • Tunglang can go to belum for trip with the help of balak prople going inyo thousand year old virgin jungle making money by felling trees. In short clearing virgin jungle. He is silent but very hapoy because he can ride on the tracks created by them. He still miss the progressive world and want to keep up with its development.

      • Mere conjecture of others’ mentioning of balak trails as pro-balak cutting is irresponsible & child-like comment. Then all the 4WD guys are lumped in the same accusation of your keyboard fantasies – do that at Rainforest Challenge & I can assure you will never return to Cosmopolitan Penang! Before you open your orifice, think & not accuse like a High Chaparral CAT of Kampung Buah Pala.

        To help improve your still illiterate 4WD comment, go on a 4WD trip & see what is real responsible 4WD. Have you heard of tree truck straps? It’s a synthetic 2inch thick strap wrapped around a tree (without harming the tree trunk) & linked to a winch cable used for winching a vehicle.
        Btw, no tree falling allowed in Belum rainforest reserve, paham kah?

        One fact: hikers going to Gunung Tahan via Taman Negara have to take a 4WD before hiking. Foot trekking all the way is not practical esp on rainy days on muddy 4WD trails. Same for Mt Kinabalu before reaching base camp.

        One thing you are right for the time being – I still keep in touch with the progressing world. Enjoying the selective best of both world is not a crime unlike extreme worshipping of CAT cosmopolitan preaching without a thinking cap.

    • Surprise me that I have a sunny Follower (like in FaceBook).
      Sorry, no digital footprints to follow my footsteps in Belum Rainforest.
      Priyanka has more sense in her comments to engage further.

  9. Our CM has proclaimed that if you don’t like it, please vote us out. No point voting for them and then complaining. Life is like that, all things come in packages. You can’t have this govt and expect them to only do good things. You got to take the good and the bad or you can have gerakan. Can’t have the cake and eat it.

      • We know you are going to support umno preferred government. It is your right democratic to do so and we expect you have nothing to bring out in Anil’s blog when they are back in power. Otherwise you are against everything in penang

      • cwf, don’t speak sweeping statement to show you can read my mind like a phobic CAT.
        May I suggest a better profession for you as a 5-foot way tarot card reader @ Eu Yang Sang, Chuilia Street as the old lady has retired.
        Then I will believe what you said as qualified & pay you Rm2.00 for a 30 seconds blah, blah, belah!!!
        Btw, I won’t SUE you like this thin face (bing chui) CAT of Komtar Tower of Coast-Mud-Politan Frenzies.

    • Hk use to have boat people. Instead of tradition fishing, they adjust. Now they have fish farm, turn the fish farm into local tourism or cater groups of tourists to party on the boat. If not reclamation, the fishermen face rubbish being thrown into longkang or dirty longkang into the sea

      • Overfishing is already depleting our fish stock.–WWF-Malaysias-New-SOS-Guide-Reveals-the-Hard-Truth

        These fishermen should consider commercially farm the Empurau fish (Wang Pu Liao) , touted to be the most expensive freshwater fish in Malaysia.

        The Malaysian Fisheries Research Institute could assist in this matter?

      • Huge tracts of flat land in mainland Penang can be converted to ago-farm use including fresh water fish farming before being bought up in Cosmopolitan Frenzies by wealthy-not-enough developers or silently turned to ‘special projects’ of dubious / contentious purposes.
        These agro-farm industries can be:
        a source of employment for locals (not cheap foreign workers to maxi-profit from with excuses),
        an opportunity to promote healthy part-time ‘light’ work for old folks + those from old folks homes,
        a secured source of food ingredients for Penang street hawker food industry (sorry, no sushi or Kimmy Garish exquisite designer food),
        & a new form of agro-tourism (learn from the Taiwanese, nothing of such in SingLand).

        For those die-hard CAT mad, there will be abundance of fish bones to feed Cosmopolitan Cats breed in the clouded minds & leave the parking summon & coupon ever-flowing income ‘intact’ for more purposeful, sustainable & social-oriented projects than excu$able Merc$300Lan$i (only beneficial for one bing chui soul).

      • Tunglang, please tell lge where tracts of flat land in mainland can be used as fish farm? Sure no land clearing to make it botak? Is the soil acidic? Just blah3 and drunk with kopi o kau3

      • Don’t have to tell where are the huge tracts of land in mainland, but CAT also wants another airport or extend seaward the present airport when Kedah announced building one for the state. Where got the head+heart for Greener Penang which I suspect this feel good but destroy slogan doesn’t include the sea.
        This shows a brain-dead for Cosmopolitan Bing Chui Edge when others also want a slice of bing chui airport, not withstanding the consequences.
        Btw, why is the Penang Intl. Airport foyer always get flooded whenever it rains cosmopolitan cats?

    • Orang tu tak ada hati dan jiwa, mungkin boleh jual ibubapa kalau nak semua condo untuk seronok diri.

  10. Our CAT prefers global sushi than Penang Koay Kau, high-end KittyCat lifestyle condos (for the 1%) than boh bing chui affordable + low cost housing for the masses.
    But the irony is this CAT can’t recall like that MatHatter guy of Helang Island where it came from in the beginning. Status bing chui is all there is wherever it meows, meows. Smitten by the Singa of SingLand? Maybe the Jelutong Tiger is too principled to practise consistently with clear conscience.

    Too bad the fishermen losers have to bear the consequences of a crave + quest for a Cosmopolitan Penang at all costs.
    Greener Penang is not inclusive of the seas? What future holds for the already ailing + angry seas when the hills are conveniently / defiantly botak-ed in broad daylight rapes seen but pretend-to-see-no-un-Natural-crime in silence for weeks! The other infamous rape is Madame Pykett, the site of crime still in disarray & her beauty forever destroyed by greed & lust for ‘loopholes’.

    We Penangites are also losers, having to pay for more expensive fishes & seafood. Having to content with brick+mortar+green glass structures blocking our natural views of emerald seas. And out of bounds if you can’t afford to buy at dizzy one square foot of bing chui.

    And the accidental death of Chung Ling Dragon Boat team of teacher & students in January 2010, the real cause due to change of a stronger + unpredictable tidal flow brought about by a much shallower & narrower sea channel. My grieve is still unsettled for their souls.

    I wouldn’t want to put it as our Penang CAT, which is very incongruous to a local alley cat, which would have meow with heavenly delights at the sight & smell of a Koay Kau steamed in ginger & Lee Kum Kee oyster sauce.

      • Sudah kaya-raya tak cukup. Mahu lagi perkosa alam semulajadi.
        Boleh makan kucing kah?

      • He wants everyone to drink kopi o kau2 and do not give a damn to those prefer teh tarik kurang manis. He only knows how to criticise. In this world, the race is still on. Better to go to belum forest than to watch world games and soccer. Japan beat malaysia to win thomas cup, African nation enter the world soccer qualifying. Running below 10 secs is no longer a feat. Korea overtake japs in handphone, white goods, ship building and offshore. Most of all, penang must remain relax and like Laos and burma

      • Know how to blah, blah, blah but when environment is dangerously degrading, pretend there is no trees, no culprits. Quoting all the alternative fish farming but yet Cat don’t give a damn to farming, water preservation by nature, alternative rain water harvesting or vertical gardening option to cool a city. Green Penang is for billboards only, pardon me if I am too green to understand the politics of Cat.
        As for beverage drinks, that’s a personal free choice but this CAT mad has thick as coffin bing chui to accuse others who love Kopi-O kau kau. If I want to sell Kopi-O kau kau, I have the expertise to brand one to create Kopi-O desire, hot or cold.
        Talking about competitive race of any nature, its not the consequence of merely superficial cosmopolitan development that jumpstart to create winners but strategic planning & harnessing of one’s competitive strengths & the art of war application. Ask why Tanzania continues to churn out world class cow’s blood drinking marathon runners in the wild without Nike & all the track shoe techno bling-bling, which btw are still inferior to a racing cheetah.
        I recommend reading Michael E. Porter’s Competitive Advantage of Nations: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance. A huge volume to improve strategic thinking than merely being over-clouded-by-Cat’s-breath to blah, blah, blah.

    • You blame the tide but have work safe play safe being taught to all rowers and any standby incase of any incidence?


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