The last remaining mangroves in Bagan Jermal, Penang, are being cleared to make way for a reclamation project. Pix by Shahnaz Fazlie Shahrizal/ NSTP
Fisherman, Harun Abdul Rashid, 53.

GEORGE TOWN: The last remaining mangroves along the northern coast of Penang island look set to be wiped out to make way for development.

Fishermen from Bagan Jermal here had complained that an area of nearly 10ha of mangroves, or more than 10 football fields, was being cleared to make way for a reclamation project.

A signboard with the words “Lesen Mengambil Hasil Hutan” (Licence to collect forest product) has been put up at the entrance of the project site.

Fisherman Harun Abdul Rashid, 53, told the New Sunday Times that fishermen used to catch crabs, fishes and white prawns in the mangroves.

However, he said, the mangroves had been inaccessible for almost two years.

“There used to be a long stretch of mangroves, stretching from Bagan Jermal right up to Tanjung Tokong. Now, the only patch of mangroves is set to make way for development.

“What will become of the fishermen? As it is, there is very little marine life left on our coast. With the mangroves being cleared, we dread to imagine what would happen in future,” he said at his house in Kampung Nelayan, Tanjung Tokong.

Harun said his grandfather and father used to fish near the mangroves.

“When I started out 40 years ago, I could easily bring home between RM2,000 and RM3,000 in my daily catch.

“These days, I can’t even make RM300 going out to sea for two straight days.

“Also, I used to bring home between 30kg and 40kg of crabs per trip from the mangroves. Now, I hardly get 2kg,” he lamented.

Fishermen from Tanjung Tokong took their plight to their Facebook page, Nelayan Tanjung Tokong, to express their unhappiness.

“The mangroves are a habitat for flora and fauna. The mangroves, along with mudflats along Gurney Drive, serve as a landing site for migratory birds.

“Imagine the impact of its clearing on the environment,” the group said.

Consumers’ Association of Penang expressed its disappointment that the mangroves in the state continued to be felled although there had been many protests, especially by fishermen.

Its president, S.M. Mohamed Idris, said the ongoing clearing showed that the state government was not serious in protecting the environment and the lives of the people, particularly fishermen.