GEORGE TOWN: The Penang government has assured that the well-being of fishermen in the southern tip of the island will not be neglected when the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) mega-project is implemented.
This came a day after the march to parliament by hundreds of fishermen from Penang and Perak, as well as representatives from numerous non-governmental organisations, to oppose the project.
Speaking at a media conference here today, Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the fishermen would still be able to go to sea after its implementation.
“At the same time, the fishermen and their families will be given ample opportunities for employment and a better quality of life once the project kicks in.
“We, the state government, just want to reiterate our stand that the fisherfolks will be well taken care of,” he said.
Last week, the state government confirmed that it had received the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approval for the PSR project by the Department of Environment (DoE) which came with 72 conditions.
The reclamation project, which covers 1,800ha of the sea in the southern part of Penang island, will be used to fund the state’s ambitious RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).
The Penang fishermen have been opposing reclamation since 2015.
Environmentalists opposing the PSR project have argued that such a project would adversely impact the livelihood of fishermen and the marine ecosystem in the southern part of the island.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said action would be taken if it was true that the PSR project has a negative impact on the public and environment.
Chow said that during a closed-door meeting with representatives of the Penang Fishermen Association led by its chairman Nazri Ahmad on May 31, they had submitted a proposal for ex-gratia in the event the PSR project kicks off.
“For the boat owners, they are asking that each of them to be given a special boat which can allow them to fish further while the reclamation work is in progress.
“They are also requesting a low-cost housing unit each for them to purchase, or own through the rent-and-own scheme.
“They also asked for a temporary jetty to be built,” he said, revealing contents of the proposal for ex-gratia sought by the fishermen.
As for the fishing crew, Chow said, each of them had also requested for low-cost housing for purchase or to own through a rent-and-own scheme.
“The state government will study their requests and look into our existing compensation package paid out to fishermen in the PSR who are affected by other reclamation projects.
“But we also want to point out that none of the fishermen’s villages will be demolished as this only involves coastal reclamation, and they can continue to stay at their existing homes.
“The state executive councillor has also requested for the task force set up to look into the fishermen’s concerns, to begin formal talks with them,” he said, adding that the first meeting had been planned for September.
Chow said the state government would be prepared to brief the prime minister or other parties on the PSR project if the need arises.
Previously, the National Physical Planning Council had outlined 18 recommendations before the project could be given the go-ahead.
Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Datuk Salahuddin Ayub had said that the Federal government had yet to make an official decision on the PSR, noting that they were still waiting for reports from several parties on the implementation of the mega-reclamation project.