NGO concerned over claims by PIC on Silicon Island plan

GEORGE TOWN: The Network for Ecology and Climate, a non-governmental organisation, is concerned about claims by the Penang Infrastructure Corporation regarding Silicon Island's Social Impact Management Plan.

The NGO said PIC had asserted that the high registration rate for SIMP by affected coastal fisherfolk indicated support for the project proponent of Silicon Island reclamation.

It, however, said feedback from the coastal fishermen affected by the project painted a different picture.

"Since the commencement of the reclamation in September last year, a significant decline in catch rates, especially for high-value shrimp, has been reported by the fisherfolk.

"Many fishermen, previously against the reclamation, now face a dilemma — continue protesting the ongoing reclamation and suffer from low catch rates or reluctantly register for the SIMP ex-gratia payments before the application window closes permanently.

"With the dwindling catches overshadowing the approaching Hari Raya Aidilfitri, many have chosen the latter.

"This increase in SIMP registrations is not an endorsement of the project but a reflection of the dire impact the reclamation is having on the fisherfolk's livelihoods," it said today.

It was reported that some 92.3 per cent of eligible fishermen had registered for the SIMP, which included 100 per cent registration from the Permatang Tepi Laut and Gertak Sanggul units as well as 92.3 per cent from the Teluk Tempoyak unit.

PIC Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Seri Farizan Darus said except for the Sungai Batu unit (with 54.22 per cent registration), the remaining units (Teluk Kumbar, Batu Maung, Seri Jerjak, Pulau Betong and Kuala Sungai Burong) had also recorded registrations above 92 per cent.

He said the high registration rate reflected the trust and confidence of the fishing community in the state government's commitment to fulfilling the promised benefits.

The NGO said, furthermore, that PIC's claim of a comprehensive survey showing no impact on fisherfolk's catch was troubling, especially given their failure to provide any supporting data.

"This lack of transparency is starkly contrasted by the data released by the small fishing unit of Sungai Batu.

"Their data shows a significant decline in shrimp catch for January this year compared to the same month in the previous year, coinciding with the start of the reclamation project," it added.

The average shrimp catch in January 2021 was 191.22kg and went up to 284.54kg in January the following year and 286.04kg last year.

This year, it dropped to 120.91kg.

In light of these findings, JEDI urged the Department of Fisheries and the Department of Environment to conduct an immediate investigation into the reported low shrimp catches by the Sungai Batu fishing unit and other affected fisherfolk.

"We stand in solidarity with the remaining fisherfolk who oppose the ongoing reclamation works for Silicon Island.

"We commit to remaining vigilant and critical throughout the entire process, monitoring and observing any environmental changes and impacts in Penang," it stressed.

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