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State rep debunks misconceptions about PSI

State rep debunks misconceptions about PSI

Published by Buletin Mutiara• 21/11/2023

CLIMATE adaptation is not an option but a necessity.


Joshua Woo Sze Zeng (PH-Pulau Tikus) addressed the August House that Penang is not exempted from global climate challenges, given its diverse natural environment and rapid urbanisation.


“We need to identify and take proactive steps to protect our community, infrastructure, and the state’s economy.


“This involves not only smarter physical development but also changes in how we interact with nature and plan for state development,” Woo said when debating the motion of thanks on the address by the Penang Governor Tun Ahmad Fuzi Abdul Razak, during the State Legislative Assembly session, yesterday (Nov 20).


He underscored the importance of investing in climate adaptation infrastructure, emphasising that it serves as a legacy not only for the present but also for future generations.


“We can reduce disaster risks, create high-paying job opportunities, and plan for smart and eco-friendly urban development by enforcing holistic climate adaptation strategies.


“Penang, being a state open to globalisation and economic growth, must proactively take steps to ensure continuous sustainable development,” he said.


Woo said projects like the Penang Silicon Island are examples of sustainable infrastructure construction.


“The Silicon Island project goes beyond creating new land for Industry 4.0 development; it places a significant emphasis on social development, particularly within fishing communities.


“Simultaneously, it upholds a commitment to preserving the environment and marine life through the implementation of the Social Impact Management Plan (SIMP) and the PSI Ecology Offset Masterplan.


“The 2019 special report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UN IPCC) emphasised that land reclamation is an advanced strategy for addressing rising sea levels, taking into account factors such as land scarcity, population pressure, and disasters.


“The report also mentioned that land reclamation is a mature and effective technology that can provide predictable safety levels.


“Reclamation projects in the Maldives were cited as examples of climate adaptation-based landfill projects,” Woo highlighted.


Woo added that, additionally, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) funds marine reclamation projects, aiding countries in building climate resilience by creating higher reclaimed land to address rising sea levels.


“Another study conducted in Germany, the Netherlands, and the Maldives found that land reclamation is a strategy to reduce flood risks in coastal urban areas. This study was published in the Climate Change journal in 2020.


“Many countries implement land reclamation to create habitable new land as a climate adaptation method. Examples include Denmark, Singapore, Scotland, the Netherlands, Japan, Qatar, South Korea, Kiribati, Germany, Thailand, Finland, Italy, Vietnam, and Poland,” he said.


He further explained that land reclamation is not a foreign concept in Penang.


“Many essential infrastructures, landmarks, public parks, and residential areas in Penang today are built on reclaimed land.


“The Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway, constructed on reclaimed land along Penang’s east coast since 1999, caters to a daily traffic volume of 50,000 to 65,000 road users, encompassing both supporters and opponents of reclamation development in Penang.


“Reclamation along the east coast in central Penang has created Karpal Singh Drive and Bandar Sri Pinang.


“Low-cost and medium-cost housing such as Pinang Court 1 and 2, Desa Pinang 1 and 2 have been developed on reclaimed land to provide affordable units for over 2,000 families.


Without reclamation, these 2,000 families would be without homes.


“The beautiful Al-Bukhary Mosque, inaugurated by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in 2019, is also built on reclaimed land.


“In addition to the aforementioned developments, there are other reclamation projects in Penang, such as the Esplanade, Weld Quay, Gurney Drive, Seri Tanjung Pinang 2 in Tanjung Tokong, and Queens Waterfront in front of Queensbay Mall,” he said.


Woo said there were misconceptions about the Penang South Islands (PSI) or Silicon Island reclamation project, claiming it negatively affects the state’s food safety.


“Based on satellite images taken over 200 days and clearance from the Malaysian Space Agency (MySA), the PSI reclamation area is not a focal point for fishing activities. In fact, fishermen are more active outside the PSI area.


“Moreover, there’s an assumption that reclamation work in Penang has negatively impacted fish catches and food safety.


“In reality, data from the Fisheries Department shows no consistent decline in fish catches from 2014 to 2020.


“In 2020, fish catches were 24% higher than in 2014, despite the execution of five reclamation projects (Gurney Bay, Seri Tanjung Pinang 2, The Light Waterfront, the Esplanade, and Queens Waterfront) during that period.


“Therefore, claims that reclamation in Penang has a detrimental effect on fisheries output are unfounded. Data has demonstrated that reclamation projects in Penang have not affected the state’s food safety,” he argued.


Woo highlighted the execution of the Social Impact Plan (SIMP), which has been set in motion to empower local fishing communities through a range of initiatives in the wake of the PSI implementation.


Among the initiatives are supplying fully-equipped, larger, and safer boats with powerful engines; providing free professional helmsman training; offering tuition and scholarships for fishermen’s children; generating new job opportunities with stable income and benefits such as insurance and EPF; extending financial aid in the form of ex-gratia; constructing new jetties and upgrading onshore facilities; providing aquaculture opportunities to enhance the state’s food safety; establishing a cooperative with an RM5 million allocation to safeguard the commercial interests of fishermen; creating business prospects for the local community; releasing two million fish and shrimp fry; and installing artificial reefs to foster new marine habitats.


Woo added that the Social Impact Assessment (SIA) for PSI reflected strong support from 79% of the local population in Penang, including fishermen, with 74.8% of fishermen endorsing the PSI project.


“Moreover, a petition signed by 435 fishermen urged the state government to proceed with the PSI project after the initial approval for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was cancelled.


“During the public display of the Environmental Impact Assessment from May 20, 2022, to June 18, 2022, the Department of Environment (DoE) received overwhelmingly positive feedback, with 93% expressing support for PSI.


“The PSI development, aligned with the Social Impact Management Plan (SIMP), aims to empower local fishing communities and drive their development while advancing the sustainable fisheries sector through aquaculture.


“Through Silicon Island, Penang serves as a model for constructing sustainable infrastructure that not only meets current needs but also safeguards the interests of future generations. The well-being of the state requires a more holistic and sustainable infrastructure.


“Road management and construction not only enhance transportation systems but also contribute to minimising environmental impact.


“Sustainable infrastructure, coupled with an efficient and eco-friendly public transportation system, is crucial for sustainable development,” he said.


Story by Christopher Tan

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