GEORGE TOWN: A proposed massive reclamation project off Penang Island’s southern coast has raised concerns over the fishermen’s livelihood and the spectre of spiralling property prices.
The Permatang Damar Laut area is known as a haven for marine life, especially fishes and cockles, and is home to thousands of low-income residents.
The state government has announced plans to allow three large man-made islands to be created off the south coast, for commercial and residential development, in payment for a proposed tunnel across the North Channel to the mainland.
Despite assurances there will be affordable housing via the project in the area, many believe it will still be beyond their reach.
One resident, Sumaiyah Abdul Sukor, 32, said that even if the houses came under the affordable housing category, they would still not be affordable for many residents.
“My husband and I earn about RM3,000 per month and with that kind of income, we can only watch the houses being built but we will not be able to buy it,” she said.
Another resident, Muhamad Adam Hariz Khairyl Anwar, 28, said he feared the reclamation would eventually lead to other projects on the horizon.
“I was born and raised here by my grandparents and if the reclamation takes place, I fear we’ll lose our houses to pave way for other developments, too,” he said.
Citing Tanjung Tokong as an example of the skyrocketing price of houses that could only be afforded by those in the higher income category, he said the same situation could befall his village.
Fishermen in the area are worried that hundreds of species of fish, including expensive ones such as ‘terubok’, and prawns like ‘udang lipan besar’ will perish if the reclamation went ahead.
Sungai Batu Fisherman’s Association chairman Mohd Ismail Ahmad, 55, who has been a fisherman his whole life, said the Permatang Damar Laut area was unique not only because of the fish and other aquatic life, but it was also a place where turtles came to lay eggs.
Currently, the fishermen can make an average of RM200 to RM400 per day, depending on the season.
Consumer Association of Penang president S. M. Mohamed Idris had previously said that land reclamation would destroy the breeding ground of fishes and that fishermen would be forced to go further out to sea.
He said based on CAP’s observation, land reclamation projects would lead to the shrinking of fishing zones, destruction of fishing grounds, sea pollution as well as sedimentation.
The reclamation project has been put on hold, pending completion of the Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment in September.
It was reported that the state government, through the SRS Consortium had planned to build three man-made islands in the area to fund the RM27 billion Penang Transport Master Plan.