Penang fishermen ask governor to intervene in reclamation projects

The governor’s private secretary, Mohd Abdul Rahman Ismail, receiving the memorandum from the Penang Fishermen’s Association. With them is Penang Forum’s Khoo Salma Nasution. (right)

GEORGE TOWN: Penang’s fishermen made an impassioned plea to Governor Abdul Rahman Abbas to use his influence in calling off the sea reclamation projects which they say are affecting their livelihood.

Penang Fishermen’s Association (Pen Mutiara) chairman Nazri Ahmad sent a five-page memorandum to the governor at his residence today, urging him to get the various reclamation projects in the state cancelled.

The memorandum was received by the governor’s private secretary, Mohd Abdul Rahman Ismail.

In the memorandum, Nazri, representing fishermen in the state, said Penang was close to losing its “fresh and high-quality” seafood from its waters as a result of excess reclamation.

“Our basic human rights are at stake. In the name of development, our villages are being displaced, our beaches requisitioned, and our mangroves and other fishing grounds destroyed.

“Piles of garbage are jettisoned along the seafront polluting our estuarial and coastal waters. Sand is dumped into our oceans to reclaim new land for others.

“Within our lifetime, fishermen have been negatively impacted by a series of reclamation projects and bridge construction works,” the memorandum read.

Nazri also listed out past reclamation works which have affected them for many decades, such as the Jelutong Expressway, Seri Tanjung Pinang, Bayan Mutiara and the Butterworth Outer Ring Road (BORR).

He said those building the BORR had to reclaim Butterworth’s shores to build the highway and fishermen affected were promised a RM12,000 ex-gratia payment but this was never paid in full.

Pen Mutiara chairman Nazri Ahmad speaking to reporters outside the governor’s residence along York Road today.

Nazri said in the Seri Tanjung Pinang 2 (STP2) reclamation, a jetty was supposed to be built for the Tanjung Bungah, Tanjung Tokong, Gurney and Paramount fishermen, but this never materialised.

“Since the STP2 project, Indian mackerel (ikan kembong), which used to be plentiful in Tanjung Tokong and north of Penang Channel, has been difficult to find of late, even though LKIM has classified it as the ‘people’s fish’ (ikan rakyat).

“The STP2 project has affected water quality, from the Penang Channel to Telok Bahang, including the coastal tourist belt of Batu Feringghi, which has lost its lustre as an international tourism destination,” he said.

Nazri said the affected fishermen have to endure tougher times and get only half of the catch they used to enjoy before the coastal reclamation projects took place.

“The poor catch has forced them to take on other jobs to provide for their families.

“The sea has been contaminated with mud and sludge.

“Fishermen often suffer losses due to damage to nets because, instead of catching fish, they are usually pulling out jellyfish and debris from the reclamation,” he said.

Penang’s ongoing reclamation works are the expansion of the Gurney Drive foreshore and the STP island. Planned for the future is the three-islands project down south.

In Seberang Perai, a 650ha reclamation is set to take place on the shores of Butterworth.