PETALING JAYA, June 13 — Fishermen will still be able to fish when the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project begins, as they would have unobstructed access to the sea throughout the project’s 20-year construction period, the Penang state government has asserted today.
Seeking to allay concerns and criticism over the state government’s intention to continue with the PSR project, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the state government has no intention of belittling the contributions of fishermen from the south Penang Island fishermen units as they contribute to the economy as well as provide food for the people.
Chow said this in response to Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food Industries Datuk Che Abdullah Mat Nawi, who had described the PSR as a “disaster to Penang fishermen” and claimed that it would destroy the national fisheries sector.
“PSR’s construction will only start with one island and the development will take about 20 years.
“During that period, fishermen will still have unobstructed access to the sea. Therefore, we disagree with the deputy minister that PSR will be a disaster to fishermen,” he said in a statement this morning.
Chow said one of the initiatives under the PSR project is the 250m wide navigation channel that would allow fishermen 24-hour access to the sea regardless of the tide in the future as compared to now.
He also stressed that the island’s fishing landings are not limited to only the PSR site since the whole fishing area for coastal fishermen in south Penang Island was much larger and farther from the earmarked reclamation site, which meant that fishermen would still have a wide area for their fishing activities.
Chow also said the state government would be implementing the Social Impact Management Plan (SIMP) to ensure fishermen communities benefit from the PSR project in terms of financial aid, business opportunities and various other socioeconomic benefits for their families.
“With all these measures, the state government can make sure development and environmental preservation, as well as safeguarding fishermen’s welfare can all be achieved together.
“We should not be forced to make only one choice,” he said.
Chow also assured that the state government will ensure the implementation of mitigation measures according to the 72 conditions stated in the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report by the Environmental Department.
Such measures include ecology offset programmes like mangrove planting, deployment of artificial reefs and fish aggregating devices, releases of fish and prawn fry and funding of research.
“These measures will ensure the reclamation proceeds in a controlled manner to prevent pollution.
“The offset programmes will help create new habitats for marine life and boost fish stock, which contributes towards the sustainability of the fisheries sector,” he said.
However, he said the fishermen community will not be able to elevate their socioeconomic situation if the PSR project was discontinued, with the younger generation able to benefit from education, training and job opportunities.
“Without PSR, the fishermen will just remain as they are. Penang will lose the chance to develop and create jobs for its citizens and the future generation.
“The state government hopes the people, including the deputy minister, can understand why PSR is important to Penang,” he added.
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