GEORGE TOWN: Why is the Penang government in such a hurry to start preliminary works for the Silicon Island project?
Aliran, a reform movement in Malaysia championing justice, freedom, and solidarity, said the appeal filed by the fishermen against the project has yet to be heard.
Aliran's executive committee said the Penang Fishermen's Association (Pen Mutiara), the South Penang Area Fishermen's Association and Zakaria Ismail, on behalf of the Sungai Batu fishermen's unit, had filed their notices of appeal against the project to the Appeals Board on May 25.
"They are challenging the conditional approval of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for the reclamation project.
"This appeal has not yet been heard. So, why is the state in such a hurry to start the project today (yesterday)?
"To present the fishermen and the people of Penang with a fait accompli?
"Aliran is alarmed that the Penang government is bulldozing through its mega reclamation plan to create the Silicon Island off the southern coast of Penang island," it said today.
Yesterday, Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said preparatory works for the Penang Silicon Island project would begin with immediate effect and would continue until the related works are completed.
He had said that this followed the approval to the Environmental Management Plan (EMP) for the project which was obtained from the state Department of Environment (DOE) on July 21.
The go-ahead was a follow-up to the nod of the EIA report for the Penang South Island (PSI) project which was approved with 71 conditions by the central DOE through a letter dated April 11.
Elaborating, Aliran said the mega reclamation project laid smack in the middle of fish-breeding coastal waters in the south.
It said, even though the proposed three islands had been scaled down to one, the project would still kill off the marine biodiversity in the affected area and damage the coastline.
"It will also erode the fishermen's livelihoods, as their catch dwindles, and weaken the state's food security. Reduced catches in the future will lead to higher fish and seafood prices for ordinary people.
"Fresh hydrological and tidal studies are needed now that only one island will be built instead of two or three.
"Has there been any study of the impact of the existing reclamation in the north of Penang island?
"What is causing the worrying beach erosion in Batu Ferringhi and the pink tide phenomenon in the waters off Teluk Bahang and Sungai Pinang, Balik Pulau recently?
"Shouldn't we study this in more depth first before embarking on more reclamation?" it added.
According to Aliran, there is plenty of cheaper land on the mainland for high-tech industry.
It went on to say that the country is also struggling to reduce its massive food import bill, which includes fish imports, and that food security ought to be the priority in this era of extreme weather changes.
"Aliran urges the Penang government not to jeopardise our existing sources of affordable seafood.
"Do not prioritise corporate profits at the expense of the people's interest.
"Stop grabbing the commons. Stop the reclamation!" it stressed.