Will land reclamation affect fisheries?


Under the Penang Structure Plan (2005-2010), major land reclamation has been slated for Penang. But how will this affect water quality and fisheries in the state?

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Under the Plan, the following projects are slated as part of reclamation in Penang (as highlighted in a 2007 presentation by JPS):

  • artificial islands in Tanjong Tokong
  • Gurney Drive reclamation
  • an artificial island in the Middle Bank (which is an eco-sensitive fisheries area)
  • the area north and south of the Penang Bridge
  • the extension of the North Butterworth Container Terminal to Teluk Air Tawar (long stretch, that)
  • the Penang Airport expansion

Now, some of these ambitious plans were obviously planned with the controversial Penang Outer Ring Road in mind. Of late, though, talk has re-surfaced about land reclamation involving the Middle Bank, between Queensbay and the Light project.

The Middle Bank is the shallow part of the straits between the island and the mainland. Of course, hydrological studies would be necessary if reclamation is carried out here.

But the problem is that biologists had pointed out that, since the 1970s, the Middle Bank has been the breeding and nursery area for many of the commercial species of fishes of Penang. The groupers (kerapu) have their nursery and feeding grounds there. Thus, apart from hydrological studies, a study/survey should be carried out to determine if the Middle Bank is still a nursery and feeding area for fish before any decision on reclamation can be made.

At present, fisheries appears to be a neglected sector in Penang’s development plans, or maybe it just doesn’t seem to be a big priority – which is a pity as Penang is surrounded by water (albeit much polluted). If we want to ensure our future food security and self-sufficiency (think of the fish shortage and the soaring price of fish in the market), it would be time to prioritise the fisheries sector (and I am not referring to aquaculture here), safeguard fishing waters and improve the lot of our fisher folk. Remember, we can eat fish, but we can’t eat (semiconductor) chips!

Over on the mainland, some major expansion work also appears to be underway in Butterworth near the North Butterworth Container Terminal. Phase 3A is set to add 600 metres to the existing 900-metre wharf. The Penang Port plans to reclaim 404 hectares for various activities, reports the Dredging Today website. Has any study been done on the impact on water quality and fishing?

The JPS presentation in 2007 identified deterioration of coastal water quality (as a result of reclamation; sand mining; commercial, industrial and residential activities; and encroachment of environmentally sensitive areas). High levels of E. coli level, turbidity and suspended solids were found.

Is it any wonder that the Pantai Bersih fisher folk near the port in Butterworth have complained of dirty or muddy water?

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31 Oct 2010 6.16pm

Why has environmental sustainability been elusive? Let me share these 2 pertinent points of contention as related to the above question: 1) Lack of political will and difficulty in changing entrenched habits are frequently cited reasons for this quagmire; more proximate causes include: • Lack of policy space to evaluate tradeoffs between environment outcomes and social or economic objectives. • Ill-adapted policy formulation and implementation processes. • Well organized political opposition to change. • Poor understanding of the social, economic, and health costs of environmental degradation. While synergies and “win-win” strategies exist in some areas, tradeoffs are common among environmental… Read more »

31 Oct 2010 9.53am

At this point, there is no avoiding reclamation for Penang. The best can be hope for is to do it with as little damage as possible. You can’t get too sentimental about it even something like nursery for fishes. You can now do aqua culture for kerapu. Penang is probably the smallest city-island in THE WORLD! Do develop it without environmental damage is impossible. To do it, after decades of poor planning and greed-driven development, handicap by federal govt, AND avoid some sort of HAVOC? – Its simply extraordinary, unreasonable to expect. People who feel entitled it, well UMNO/BNputras feels… Read more »

Gerakan K
Gerakan K
31 Oct 2010 6.27pm
Reply to  Bigjoe

Your bias statement:
At this point, there is no avoiding reclamation for Penang

Of course you have said this because now it is PR in charge. But why you cried artistically when Gerakan in charge doing the same thing ???

What a double standard ala opposition style !!!

1 Nov 2010 5.11pm
Reply to  Gerakan K

Though Gerakan is one of the worst parties, I am fully with this comment. They are acting without consulting anyone AGAIN. Maybe the grouper fisherman could stage a protest or something. It is not sentimental to protect grouper grounds but a responsibility of humans, the custodians of environment. DAP has a destructive attitude. First it was threatening to tear down private extensions in Gambier, the sealing off and harassing traders in KOMTAR, now this destruction of grouper breeding ground nonsense. Some people just keep poking their noses where they don’t belong and breaking peoples ricebowls or even the fishes’ homes… Read more »

31 Oct 2010 9.03am

Land reclamation in absolutely unnecessary especially in Malaysia. How about developing Butterworth and Wellesley instead? This is a ridiculous waste of funds and withholding of investment against mailland Penang.

30 Oct 2010 12.35pm

I think they should go for all in one sweep!
Reclaim it all, make Penang part of the mainland!
No more need for bridges, no toll!!
No more polluted water.
Plenty of ‘new’ land for the cronies.
No more fish, no need for the fishing kampungs.
Get rid of the tourists to keep prices low!!

30 Oct 2010 12.01pm

….this is an after thought. Penang Island with its small land mass, how will the people be catered for.
Will fishery be given priority over human settlement?…certainly by then, there will be no place left for mudheads belonging to a political party like Gerakan.

31 Oct 2010 9.07am
Reply to  wandererAUS

Unlike land which can be reclaimed, but is not even necessary to do in Malaysia, Grouper Nurseries and Breeding grounds are impossible to reconstruct easily. Please prioritise the rightthings and invest in developing mainland Penang areas instead of disturbing delicate ecosystems on pretext of no land on Island.

30 Oct 2010 10.07am

Anil, do you have a choice if UMNO/BN are still in power? Fisheries is not an important issue, if the the proposed areas are environment friendly with proper planning. Sometimes, I wonder how people living in semi-desert inland areas survive?!!

30 Oct 2010 12.11am

We don’t need an absolute blameless god-like figure or gomen to run the daily affairs of the state. The state development and future direction will take us somewhere for good or for the worst, and especially for those who have no influence, money or power of political cum economic interplaying, it is of grave concern. Never in the history of Penang’s economic and social development have we witnessed blatant disregards for the state of affairs of the ordinary people since the time of KTK leadership. Take the rent control issue for example of a myopic planning without a farsighted vision… Read more »

29 Oct 2010 10.46pm

Who to blame? Of course to Tunglang & Ah Soon, it is LGE. But to most Penangites we all know who. No need to mention.

30 Oct 2010 8.33am
Reply to  AlbertG

Actually Tunglang and Eu Soon can migrate south to live in Najib’s 100th sotrey tower in 5 year’s time. There he can eat imported sushi and M’s bread.

30 Oct 2010 3.35pm
Reply to  Noraini

Boleh cakap besar bila hidup senang dan mewah. Pergilah ke bandar tengok sendiri keadaan orang miskin, barulah sedar betapa susahnya nak hidup di Pulau Pinang setiap hari. Mungkin u tak pernah hidup miskin, tapi diberi kemudahan hingga sekarang! Speaking aloof and blindly from lofty office tower or big bungalow, it is easier said when you don’t see the true situation or rub your nose at ground level. Have you ever experienced going by without a decent meal, but just a packet of RM1.00 beehoon for the whole day? Have you see 70-plus aged old folks eking a living from rubbish… Read more »

Ong Eu Soon
29 Oct 2010 6.20pm

Generally, land reclamation increases water level in the original aquifer and moves the salt water interface toward the sea. This is due to the ground water discharge into the sea. When this happened, the coastal ecosystem will change tremendously, coastal fishes or wildlife that used to a salty environment will find it hard to adapt to this new changes. A lot of fishes will die or lost their breeding ground. This is same as the encroachment of human activity into the forest. Wildlife will find that their inhabitable space reduced tremendously. When we build more concrete jungle on the reclaimed… Read more »

29 Oct 2010 4.17pm

In the not too distant future: Penangites will have to pay manifolds for a simple ulama salt fish. Penangites will have to pay high rentals for a place to sleep. Penangites will have to resort to squatting in the belukar hills. Penangites will have to stroll on the side walks because there’s little left of green parks. Penangites will have to eat at home because greedy hawkers only cater to the rich and Singaporeans. Penangites will have to avoid areas demarcated for the rich, famous and super rich. And in the not too distant future, Penangites will have to resort… Read more »

Gerakan K
Gerakan K
30 Oct 2010 7.03am
Reply to  tunglang

Undilah Gerakan

1 Nov 2010 3.49pm
Reply to  Gerakan K

Undilah Gerakan untuk menjahanamkan masa depan anda.