BALIK PULAU: Fishermen affected by the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project have objected to a proposal that they look for other jobs.
“We don’t want to be security guards or taxi drivers. We just want to continue being fishermen,” Penang Fishermen Association chairman Nazri Ahmad said today.
He was responding to an offer by the Penang government to help the fishermen secure other sources of income if their catch was affected by the project. Nazri estimated that about 10,000 fishermen would be affected.
The PSR project involves the building of three new islands off the southern coast of Penang Island. The three islands, with land area extending more than 1,800ha, will then be sold and the proceeds from the sale will be used pay for the RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan project.
Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said last week the state government would ensure that the fishermen be given ample opportunity to find other jobs and even raise their standard of living.
The Department of Environment has approved the environmental impact assessment for the project pending the fulfilment of 72 conditions. Nonetheless, the state has reaffirmed its commitment that the project be continued.
Nazri, who was speaking to reporters during a whistle-stop by Port Dickson MP Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, said the fishermen appreciated the gesture by the state and SRS Consortium, the delivery partner for the transport master plan project.
The fishermen have been fighting to prevent the reclamation project from proceeding for five years already.
Nazri said the project would affect the fish breeding grounds.
He pointed out that they refrained from raising any objection when the Tanjong Tokong and the Gurney Drive reclamation projects were launched.
“But when the PSR project was mooted, the fishermen could not stand idle while they watched their livelihood slipping away,” he said.
Nazri said the fishermen also did not have sufficient savings to move into low-to-medium-cost homes that the state had pledged to build for them.
“We are also not interested in the compensation or ex-gratia payments. We’d prefer to continue fishing,” he added.
State executive councillor in charge of agriculture Dr Afif Bahardin said the government would take into account several of Anwar’s suggestions, including efforts to broaden engagement with the fishermen.
However, he said, for the benefit of Penang something had to be done to alleviate the traffic congestion, spur growth by attracting foreign investors and to pursue a better quality of life for the people.