A large crowd has packed a hotel convention room in Teluk Kumbar for a public consultation on the environmental impact assessment study of the massive land reclamation plan off the coast of southern Penang Island.
The ill-conceived plan involves the creation of three artificial islands totalling almost 4,500 acres. Two islands would be created under the first phase and and a third island under the second phase.
Most of the homes that will be created are likely to be priced beyond the reach of ordinary Penangites (only about 20 per cent will be “affordable”); so it is unclear where the bulk of the projected 300,000-400,000 people on the island will come from.
Fishermen’s association representatives are peppering the consultants with questions and strong objections to the disproportionate reclamation plans. They claim their livelihood would be jeopardised as a huge chunk of their fishing grounds would be destroyed.
One of them says the consultants’ study on the state of the sea was not convincing. “We know the sea better.”
Another complains there has not been enough study of the habitat for the plankton. “It is not so easy. It will be difficult for us to cari makan. We object!”
Chow Kon Yeow, however, responds saying detailed studies had been carried out and EIA consultant Sharifah’s presentation to the state government took three hours.
But yet another fishermen’s representative objects, pointing out that the fishing community would surely lose out in the long run. “We are not convinced by all these so-called studies… We are real fishermen for already a few generations… the consultants are only for the economy… not looking after the welfare of fishermen.”
Other state government leaders present are Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, his deputy Rashid Hasnon and state secretary Farizan. One of them criticised NGOs for making supposedly baseless accusations. Also present was EIA consultant Nik.
Still the fishermen queue up on the floor. Another says, “All the slides beautiful cukup! Very angry… see Tanjung Tokong development, the fishing all gone! I am sad now… is this win-win?”
Another takes to the mike: “I represent all fishermen… all have stood up to object… but where are you all?… most already have left the hall? What about the livelihood for our generations? No need for me to elaborate. I object on behalf of all.”
Check out this ridiculous slide listing some of the control measures to offset the impact of the land reclamation and loss of fishing grounds:
Colouring competitions, celebration of festivals, sandwich-making and gotong-royong? Seriously? To offset the loss of fishing grounds of the fishing community and the food security of the residents of Penang?
No wonder the fisherfolk are upset.
Other residents raise concerns about the impact on traffic, agriculture, aquaculture and the pig trade during the reclamation work.
After the consultation, the fisher folk staged a protest in the vicinity.
In such contestations between politically backed Big Business and local community interests, it is easy to see who the winners and losers are.