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Penang South Reclamation spells permanent destruction of resources

A wise state government would develop the inshore fishing industry to increase production and safeguard food security for future generations

Precious food security: A fisherman at work in Teluk Kumbar

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The Bay of Teluk Kumbar, a rich fish breeding ground, has provided food for people for as long as there have been people in Penang, long before the arrival of Western ‘discoverers’.

That is certainly many centuries ago, but it could well be much longer, even millennia.

Fishing, particularly inshore fishing, is an industry in perpetuity, and there is no denying. What it needs is a conducive natural environment where there is ample underwater food supply for the fish to feed on and breed. And this is not found in every inch of the wide seas. Thus there is an unending supply of nature-produced fish in certain places for humans to harvest as an important source of food and protein.

Then came the age of mis-educated humans who have been indoctrinated with the economic theory of ‘growth’, ie that for a nation to prosper, its economy must keep growing. This is measured with the principal yardstick of gross domestic product (GDP), which briefly is the total monetary or market value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country’s borders over a specific period.

This theory of development and progress is sold to the ‘less developed’ or ‘underdeveloped’ countries, which then open their arms and borders to ‘investors’ from the rich countries to come and set up industries to produce goods and money to uplift the economy of the host country (just as Malaysia wanted to help uplift the economy of the US a few years ago!).

The foreigners don’t come to do charity in the host countries, but to exploit cheap labour and other ‘incentives’ offered to attract them. They are mercenaries in that they are here to serve their own interests, and when it is no longer profitable for them to stay here, they pack up and go elsewhere.

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None of these human-developed industries is superior to nature, which has endowed us with an inshore fishing industry, which survives as long as human beings do not destroy it by their own recklessness or greed.

Thus the big picture of the Penang South Reclamation project is that it is going to destroy in perpetuity an industry that has existed for hundreds if not thousands of years for the sake of using the fishing grounds to build factories for industries that come and go, and may in time to come, not even come.

Foreign direct investments are not a permanent feature of a nation. No long-term reliance can be placed on them as the nation has no control over the owners of these investments.

Then why are we prepared to destroy a permanent industry that feeds tens of thousands of people daily?

According to the agriculture authority, “the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project will have grave, lasting impact on the fishery industry in Penang, affecting an estimated RM555 million in potential annual income for fishermen. It is estimated that 51,184 metric tonnes of marine captures in Penang worth RM555 million a year will be affected due to this permanent destruction.”

The Marine and Coastal Management Working Group states in its Penang Green Agenda 2020 that “one of the most immediate threats to marine life in Penang is land reclamation. There are real concerns that the past and future reclamation projects will cause irreparable damage to breeding and fishing grounds, further harming the livelihoods of fishermen and Penang’s food security”.

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So why is the state government riding roughshod over the professionals and going ahead to destroy permanently an evergreen food producing industry that can go on and on, forever producing an abundant source of food, for the sake of foreign director investments that are mercenary and can pack up and leave anytime, leaving behind a permanently destroyed food supply area?

Foreign direct investments are a short-term phenomenon that cannot compare with the evergreen inshore fishing industry. Any amount of money is worthless if it cannot buy essential food at a reasonable price. For it to be available at a reasonable price, there must a good, bountiful supply of it.

The Penang state government talks about the preservation of paddy fields for food security but refuses to recognise that food security means the availability of cheap protein, an essential food, that is found in abundance in the Bay of Teluk Kumbar.

A wise state government would further develop the inshore fishing industry here to increase production and safeguard food security for future generations and not be hell bent on destroying it in the name of fishing for foreign direct investments that can pack up and leave anytime it suits them. They get “incentives” from the government and employ cheap foreign labour to make as much as they can.

The “long-term interest of the state” does not mean the next 20, 30 or even 50 years but hundreds of years! Are politicians not concerned about the consequences of their actions today on future generations? – The Malaysian Insight

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