Penang Land Reclamation Why Put Sand In Our Rice Bowls




“What’s your motive? Do you want my people to suffer and become poor or homeless?” said fisherman’s daughter Zarina Baharom when met at a protest against land reclamation and highway development

The 51-year-old from Permatang Damar Laut in Bayan Lepas was ebullient as she questioned the Penang government’s motives in carrying out reclamation activities
She said the fishing families from her village only own small fishing boats and cannot afford big trawlers to go out on the open sea to fish, and are now suffering through the loss of their main income source
"What do you expect them to do? Why find trouble and put sand in their rice bowls?" Zarina demanded, at the protest held by NGOs along Jalan Masjid Negeri today
Zarina joined the group of NGOs, led by Penang Forum and the Consumers Association of Penang, who carried placards and protested against the Penang South Reclamation and the state's mega-road projects
She was part of a group of 30-odd protestors who waved colourful placards and shouted slogans like "Scrap reclamation, protect natural environment", "Save the fisherfolks in Penang", and "CM, please help to move people"
They were protesting projects such as the Pan-Island Link 1, Penang South Reclamation project, undersea tunnel linking the island and mainland in Butterworth, and the multi-billion ringgit Penang Transport Master Plan
Zarina said that many among the fishing community were not highly educated and some were school drop-outs, adding that fishing was the only profession they knew
"Don't make empty promises that there will be a port, don't give them false hopes. The fishing community cannot afford to take loans and buy big boats to go out to the open sea," said the housewife, who now live in Batu Uban
"With all the pollution, there are not even a lot of fish these days,” she lamented
Zarina was responding to Penang exco Dr Afif Bahardin who said the community’s fear that the reclamation would be destroy their livelihood was a "misconception"
Afif said the reclamation, which involves the creation of three artificial islands, allowed the fishing community open access to carry on their work.
He also said the government was working out a compensation package but they have not reached that level of discussion yet as the project had yet to be approved
Zarina said the artificial islands would destroy the ecological system, and the open access was not enough to protect the fishing community’s livelihood
"Don't just make nice proposals in black and white on paper, but which do not work in reality," she said. - Mkini

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