Now, Butterworth fishermen have to contend with reclamation

Penang Fishermen’s Association chairman Nazri Ahmad (third from left) at the press conference. At left is Khoo Salma Nasution, from Penang Forum.

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Fishermen’s Association (Pen Mutiara) today called on the state government to cancel a reclamation project off the waters near Butterworth, citing environmental and fishery concerns.

At a press conference today, Pen Mutiara chairman Nazri Ahmad said the reclaimaton would also severely impact the rice bowl of over 100 coastal fishermen in the area.

“Along the coast is also a firefly mangrove forest and a migratory birds sanctuary, one of its kind in the west coast of Malaysia.

“The forest is an important part of the fisheries in the coast of Seberang Perai, with fishermen relying on them to feed their families.

“They are already contending with a lower catch due to excess reclamation on the island side. Now, there’s another reclamation directly in the seas where they fish,” he said at a press conference at Pen Mutiara’s headquarters in Batu Maung here today.

Last September, the Penang government announced it would allow a company to reclaim 650ha of Butterworth’s shorefront.

This would see a land strip, measuring 8km in length and 854 metres in width, created along the coast, from Jalan Tunku Putra (off Jalan Telok Ayer Tawar) up to the coast of the North Butterworth Container Terminal (NBCT).

It would cost RM2 billion to reclaim the area and the project will take six years to be completed, pending environmental impact assessment approval.

The reclamation project was supposed to start in 1999 but the plan did not take off due to “uncertainties” at that time.

Last September, the project was revived after the Penang government signed a supplementary agreement with Rayston Consortium (Butterworth) Sdn Bhd (RCSB), which saw the state government receiving 90.31ha of the 650ha to be reclaimed. This was opposed to only 12.9ha under the 1999 agreement.

On June 16, 1999, RCSB was given the right to relocate 1,000 squatters along the path of the Butterworth Outer Ring Road (BORR), a 14km tolled expressway built by the federal government between 2003 and 2006.

RCSB was also part of the consortium that built BORR, along with Etika Gemilang (Butterworth) Sdn Bhd.

Part of BORR, too, is built on reclaimed land.

Nazri said today many issues resulting from the construction of BORR, especially compensation to fishermen, had yet to be settled.

He said a fishermen’s settlement, quarters and a jetty for displaced fishermen were promised but have yet to be built.

Meanwhile, Penang Forum’s Khoo Salma Nasution said a study carried out by the Consumers Association of Penang and Sahabat Alam showed all 111 coastal fishermen interviewed were against the reclamation project.

“They told us the fish catch has become very bad. Last time, they could get 7kg of crabs. Now, it is down to 2kg.

“They say this is due to the quality of the water, mud and silt.”

FMT is attempting to reach RCSB for comment and is awaiting a reply.