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LAST month, the appeal board nullified the approval for the environmental impact assessment of the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project, bringing work to a stop.

We are now seeing its devastating effects on the fisherfolk and the state of Penang following the decision.

First, the nullification has immediately crushed the fisherfolk’s hopes for financial aid, new boats, engines, and jetties.

Many fisherfolk are using unsafe boats in dilapidated conditions to go out to sea. Some are even renting boats for their work.

These fishermen were looking forward to getting new vessels and engines from the PSR which unfortunately will not happen anytime soon due to the appeal board’s decision.

Education initiatives for the fisherfolk’s children such as free tuition and scholarship for tertiary studies are now being postponed indefinitely as the funds are supposed to come from the PSR project.

Veteran fishermen are now urging for the PSR to continue for the sake of their children.

More than 400 fishermen and 1,000 local residents have signed a petition in support of the PSR project.

Second, the nullification has eliminated the potential income opportunities for small- and medium-businesses and the local community.

Small business owners were hoping that the project would help to revive their businesses which are suffering from the pandemic crisis.

Recruitment for the project is currently on hold while the existing employees may lose their jobs that may be hard to replace in the current economic downturn following the appeal board’s decision.

Capital injection worth billions of ringgit that is supposed to provide the much needed stimulant to Penang’s Covid-stricken economy is now delayed.

Third, the RM86 million funding for social improvement initiatives and environmental enhancement programmes is not coming through after the nullification.

Job opportunities, reskilling training, and commercial avenues that are planned to bring social uplift to the locals are now shelved.

Deployment of artificial reefs, fishery aggregating devices, mangrove planting programme, fishery and marine ecosystem research that are supposed to be launched this year to rejuvenate the surrounding environment are also put on hold.

It is ironic that the appeal board’s decision that is supposed to review the social and environmental impact of the project has itself had a devastating social impact and created opportunity costs to environmental sustainability. – October 18, 2021.

* Joshua Woo is a former Seberang Perai councillor.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.



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