Crime & Courts

Fishermen, NGOs file action against PSI project

BAYAN LEPAS: Seven fishermen, together with Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) and Jaringan Ekologi dan Iklim (Jedi), have filed an application for judicial review to challenge the planning permission given by the state Town and Country Planning director last August for the Penang South Island Project (PSI).

The application was filed at the Penang High Court in December last year.

The nine applicants are suing the state Town and Country Planning (PLANMalaysia) director as the first respondent, state Planning Committee (second respondent), Penang government (third respondent) and SRS Consortium Sdn Bhd (fourth respondent).

The first applicant, Zakaria Ismail, the head of Sungai Batu Fishermen Unit, is bringing the action for and on behalf of himself and the fisher folks living and/or conducting fishing activities off the coast of Penang island adversely affected by the PSI project.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia honorary secretary Mageswari Sangaralingam said on Feb 5, the Penang High Court granted leave to the applicants to proceed with the judicial review application.

She said in the application for judicial review, the applicants requested a declaration that the grant of planning permission by PLANMalaysia on Aug 21 last year was void and of no effect as it violated the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act 1976.

They also sought an order of certiorari to quash the decision granting the planning permission to the Penang government to commence reclamation works for the PSI project in the Southwest district.

"They also requested an order that the Penang government and SRS immediately restore all and/or any damage to the area in which reclamation works have commenced and/or completed for Island A and/or the PSI project, to its original and pristine state as it was prior to the start of the said reclamation works.

"They also requested an order that the respondents pay damages to the applicants and all fisherfolk represented by the applicants in relation to the loss of their income, which is to be assessed by the court.

"Aside from the above, the applicants are also seeking an order that the planning permission granted for the PSI project, and all other processes and reclamation works are stayed pending the final disposal of this judicial review application and costs.

"The project impacts are already being seen and felt by the fisherfolk in this case," she told newsmen here today.

The stay application will be heard once the court fixes a date during the forthcoming case management fixed on Feb 19.

Meanwhile, Zakaria, 67, revealed that since the PSI project started in the southern area of ​​Penang island on Sept 1 last year, the catch of fishermen in the area, especially prawns, has suffered a significant decline of up to 50 per cent.

He said, based on a comparative analysis for the fourth quarter, which is September-December 2022, the average shrimp catch was 192.41 kg but in the fourth quarter of last year, the rate plummeted to 92.69kg.

"The decline was more pronounced in the run-up to Chinese New Year which is traditionally associated with higher catches due to increased market demand.

"January 2022 saw a catch of 284.54kg and increased to 286.04kg in January 2023. However, in January this year, the catch dropped to 120.91kg, which marked a drop of 57.73 percent.

"The reduction rate not only shows a significant decrease in the average shrimp catch but also predicts a 50 per cent loss in the average income of the fishermen involved," he added.

Last May, the Penang government announced that it would do away with two of three islands of the controversial PSI reclamation project.

This meant a scaling down of 49 per cent of the total three man-made islands project.

Island A, now known as Silicon Island, measures about 920ha.

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