GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Fishermen Association has labelled the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project as unsustainable and not inclusive of them and the B40 group.
Its chairman Nazri Ahmad said as the state government hosts the 7th Asia Pacific Urban Forum (APUF) at SPICE, concerned citizens of the island worry about possible destruction caused by the proposed PSR project, also called the "Penang South Islands", less than 10 kilometres away.
“PSR Project clearly goes against Malaysia and Penang’s climate pledges and aspirations to achieve UNDP’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), especially SDG1 (no poverty), SDG8 (decent jobs and economic growth), SDG10 (reduced inequalities), SDG11 (sustainable cities and communities), SDG13 (climate action) and SDG 14 (life below water).
“Namely, it goes against conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development,” he said in a memorandum.
The memorandum was handed over to a representative of the UN-Habitat yesterday and Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin at SPICE here on behalf of the affected coastal fishing communities.
Nazri claimed the reclamation project was projected to generate 3.2 million tonnes of carbon annually and worsen Penang's already critical coastal pollution.
He said the PSR project would cause many fishermen to become unemployed, hence depriving them of "decent work" (SDG8).
“The planned resort-like real estate on the reclaimed artificial islands does not benefit local people who cannot afford to live there and the implementation of the PSR project will put pressure, destabilise and displace existing communities in Penang Island South (SDG11).
“PSR is likely to result in significant decline in local fisheries which will affect the fishermen’s families directly, and also jeopardise food security and nutrition of low-income families (SDG2).
“The PSR project will increase the gap between the rich and poor, and will disadvantage the bottom 40% low-income population, for all the above reasons (SDG10),” he said.
Nazri said the Association has repeatedly voiced their objections since 2015, with a demonstration by 1,500 fishermen, and a protest at sea in 2017 with 450 fishing boats.
However, he said, the Penang government continues to deny the fishermen's rights to livelihood in favour of this project.
“Two petitions related to this protest have been signed by 240,000 supporters.
“The number clearly demonstrates the support for these fishermen and the concern that the PSR Project will likely result in a total destruction of the coastal and marine ecosystem (SDG14), including the richest fisheries in Penang-northern Perak waters, natural beaches with endangered turtle landing sites, marine mammals, coral reefs, mudflats and mangroves,” he said.
Nazri also pointed out that the reclamation poses a threat to the Penang-nothern Perak billion-ringgit marine aquaculture industry which accounts for half or more than half the tonnage and wholesale value within peninsular Malaysia.
“The aquaculture centres in this area are also the main suppliers of fresh fish to Singapore and live garoupa to Hong Kong,” he added.
Nazri said the push by Zuraida for more stakeholder engagement is to be lauded.
However, he said, the Association regrets that the PSR Social Impact Assessment (SIA) Report, required by the Town and Country Planning Act (TCPA), was approved on May 17, 2019, even though most fishermen in the area were never informed or consulted about the SIA.
“Lack of transparency has been a defining feature of the massive PSR project, which will create 3 artificial islands of 4,500 acres (larger than Forest City).
“Affected communities and civil society advocates have pointed out how members of the Penang State Government, especially the Agriculture Executive councillor, often look condescendingly upon on fishermen and do not protect their rights.
“They urge the country's leaders to embrace a vision of a sustainable and inclusive city that is supported by the New Urban Agenda.
“The UN-Habitat’s New Urban Agenda and the UNDP’s SDGs must not be mere tokenisms uttered at international conferences but must require UN agencies and state parties to commit to actual engagement with stakeholders,” he said.
He said participants from all around the world who are concerned with sustainability, inclusivity and climate change congregating at the 7th APUF, are asked to support the call by Penang Tolak Tambak to cancel the PSR project.
“The Penang State Government is in a special position to remedy this major environmental transgression by cancelling the PSR project now,” he said.