We could soon lose this breathtaking coastline, rich in plankton, and its waters, an area teeming with prawns and fish – thanks to the greed of certain quarters.
Feel the crisp sea breeze caressing your skin as you feast your eyes on the serene tranquil waters. Taste the salt in the air. Listen to the silence of the forest as you hike along the coastline amidst the whispers of rustling leaves. Watch the weary fishermen hauling in their catch. Savour the scent of grilled fish and mee udang (prawn noodles) wafting in the air from little restaurants dotted along the southern coastline.
This is what we stand to lose – and a lot more.
I gave a talk about this massive reclamation to a small group of people a couple of days ago. It surprised me that several of them were not aware of the 4,500 three-island project in the south.
At the end of the talk, several among the audience came up to ask, “What can we do to stop this?”
People should do all they can to highlight and raise awareness of this project.
Those pushing for this project are counting on public ignorance of the enormous implications of this project, not least the loss of a precious source of fish supply.
They are not telling the public that the Penang population is not growing rapidly any longer, only inching up – making massive reclamation unnecessary. Each couple in Penang now produces only 1.4 children on average – well below the population replacement rate of 2.1 children.
But most people are unaware that the project proponents expect some 446,000 people to live on those three islands. Where are these people coming from?
Who are the buyers that will buy those expensive “sea-view” condos and luxury waterfront houses on those three islands, designed to maximise the number of sea-view properties for sale? Only 20% of the homes will be “affordable” (to whom?) – which means 80% will be “unaffordable”.
Most people don’t know that Penang state is larger than Singapore. (Why, even Seberang Perai has a larger land mass than Singapore!) But the population of Penang state is only one third that of Singapore (1.8 million vs 5.6 million). So why the need for so much land reclamation in Penang?
Don’t underestimate the collective will of the people.
Remember how Penangites rallied together to “Save Penang Hill” around 1990. They succeeded. Then Penang Chief Minister Dr Lim Chong Eu of Gerakan/BN even lost his seat in the 1990 general election.
Remember how ordinary people campaigned to “Stop PGCC” (Penang Global City Centre project) in 2007-08? They succeeded – and Barisan Nasional lost Penang state government to the Pakatan Rakyat opposition parties in a shock outcome.
There is another compelling reason why we should stop this reclamation nonsense or “pesta tambak”.
Global warming is heating up the oceans, which are absorbing 90% of the heat in the climate system. “Ocean warming reduces mixing between water layers and, as a consequence, the supply of oxygen and nutrients for marine life,” warned the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Meanwhile, “ocean warming and acidification, loss of oxygen and changes in nutrient supplies, are already affecting the distribution and abundance of marine life in coastal areas, in the open ocean and at the sea floor.”
As a result, marine life is dwindling. Already, Penang fishermen claim that their catch has shrunk by 80% due to various factors including land reclamation.
So we should be doing all we can to protect our coastal waters – not dumping more sand and rocks into a “golden area for fisheries” (as the fishermen describe it).
What’s more, polar ice sheets and glaciers are melting at a faster rate. So sea levels are now rising twice as fast (3.6mm) than they were in the last century – and the rate is accelerating. The IPCC has warned that rising sea levels will displace hundreds of millions of coastal residents from their homes by this century. If we don’t take action to curb emissions, the rise in sea levels could be as much as 60-110cm by 2100.
We should be shoring up coastal defences – not reclaiming more land from the sea.
Say no to greed. Save this coastline. #PenangTolakTambak