“If there’s something strange
In your neighbourhood
Who you gonna call?”*
The murmurs are growing louder in southern Penang Island – and still we haven’t been told exactly what to expect there.
A few years ago, well before the the land-for-highways/tunnel swap deal, a source told me confidentially that certain groups were mulling over a 3,000-acre land reclamation project, perhaps somewhere in the south of Penang. I couldn’t bring myself to believe it. 3,000 acres? You had to be kidding. At that time, 750 acres was considered huge; 3,000 acres unthinkable – or so I thought.
Now comes news that fisher folk in Permatang Damar Laut are worried about work being carried out by a group or company in the area which has been surveying, measuring and marking the coast and digging the seabed. Check out the CAP statement here.
I can guess what is in store: major land reclamation work to finance the RM30bn Penang transport masterplan (which includes the controversial construction of highways on the island).
Bloomberg TV Malaysia earlier reported:
As payment-in-kind for incurring the cost to build the infrastructure, the Penang state government will grant land reclamation rights to the PDP (Gamuda). It was reported in local media that the PDP could be allowed to reclaim 607ha of land in the Middle Banks area … or 1,618ha of land south of the island for property development.
Now, 1,618ha is about 4,000 acres. Bearing in mind that the artificial island off the coast of Tanjung Tokong under the massive Sri Tanjung Pinang land reclamation project (STP2, for high end property development) covers about 750 acres, how many artificial islands are we talking about along the southern coast? Where exactly are they going to find this 4,000 acres?
And why are many of the fisher folk apparently in the dark?
If there’s something weird
And it don’t look good
Who you gonna call…*
The state government appears to be proud of the rapid expansion of aquaculture in the state. But there is nothing to be proud of aquaculture (fish farms or fish in large cages, which have their own problems) in a state surrounded by sea.
I think it reflects a failure. The sea water around the state, if managed properly, could have been teeming with healthier ‘free range’ marine life for the fisheries sector. Instead, much of the fish in our wet markets is imported from Thailand and elsewhere in the region while the original ‘free range’ fisher folk in the state have had to cope with declining catches, sedimentation and siltation, probably caused by some of the earlier land reclamation.
The fisher folk are the main stakeholders (to use corporate parlance) immediately affected by any major land reclamation project. But in southern Penang Island, they don’t appear to have been told what is happening.
If you’re seeing things
Running through your head
Who can you call…*
In Tanjung Tokong, when faced with the the massive STP2 project in an area where a fishing village was close by, the fisher folk were told during a public consultation to try their hand at setting up seafood restaurants! Some of those present were flabbergasted to hear that.
Now, don’t give us that worn-out line that nothing has been approved so far in southern Penang Island or wait for EIA or other approval before commenting. We have gone down that road before. If we wait for approvals before wide-ranging consultations (as opposed to selective consultation in small focus groups, mostly for public relations purposes) are carried out, it would be too late. It would be a done deal.
We saw how the EIA approval for STP2 was given in a matter of only a few weeks after the ‘public display’ of the plans. This speedy approval came despite a lengthy list of concerns expressed by Penang Forum, a civil society network of Penang-based NGOs. These concerns were totally ignored by the DOE; no reply given. This does not inspire confidence in the EIA process.
Moreover, these projects are under swap deals. So what happens to the other part of the deal if at all the DOE rejects the EIA report. That is why swap deals are a bad idea.
So out with it now: in the name of transparency, tell us exactly what is happening in the southern coast of Penang Island, how big the area of land reclamation planned along the coast is, and how many acres of this will ultimately land up with developers to make huge profits.
The public has a right to know – now.
When it comes through your door
Unless you just want some more
I think you better call…
and ask them what’s going on now.
* Courtesy: Ray Parker, Jr, Ghostbusters