Look at this photo of Gurney Drive, probably in the 1970s.
It is hard to imagine we had a lovely beach in the city of George Town, Penang, once. People happily swimming in the sea. A day out for families. Some buying fresh wild-caught fish directly from inshore fisherfolk. You can’t get fish fresher than that!
Here’s another photo of a long stretch of beach in the city, this time from the 1930s:
But look what happened by 2014:
Now, after degrading this beach, we want to spend billions of ringgit trying to create “Gurney Wharf”, which is supposed to give city folk an artificial beach (which we once had for free), and a massive eight-lane coastal highway. In reality, the real purpose of this reclamation is the high-density property development planned on reclaimed land from near the Gurney Drive roundabout to Gurney Plaza/G Hotel.
But so far, all we have is mega reclamation that is nowhere near completion, having exceeded its completion date.
As if that’s not enough, the state government and its developers and contractor are raring to degrade and destroy the Golden Area (Kawasan Mas) – prized fishing waters in the south of Penang Island – in an even bigger reclamation mega-project. Never mind the pandemic and the overhang in the property market.
This is where the remaining inshore fisherfolk catch ikan kembung (Indian mackerel), bawal (pomfret), senangin (threadfin), kerapu (grouper) and jenahak (snapper). Let’s not forget the prawns – large and smaller white and grey-white species – all of them local favourites. Are we prepared to lose much of this?
Is it worth sacrificing another precious stretch – along with our food security – in another mega-reclamation project? Remember, the rise in the population of Penang will taper off given the declining total fertility rate for the state, now standing at 1.3 children per woman – well below the population replacement level of 2.1.
Is there no end to greed that even the sea is not spared from the ravages of ‘development’?