PETALING JAYA: A Penang state executive councilor has rebutted claims made by a PKR MP over the contentious Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project.
In a statement, Zairil Khir Johari, the Penang infrastructure and transport exco man said the PSR project was, in fact, needed now more than ever as it would be a catalyst for the state’s post-Covid-19 economic recovery.
He said a study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers has indicated that the PSR would attract RM70 billion in foreign direct investments and create more than 300,000 jobs over 30 years.
Yesterday, Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar had urged Putrajaya and Penang to cancel the PSR project and focus on containing the pandemic, protecting the environment and ecosystem as well as the source of income of Penang fishermen.
She also said the PSR, which involves the reclamation of three man-made islands, had become focused on revenue and the speculative sale of property, sidelining the importance of the environment and a balanced ecosystem.
In response, Zairil said claims that the project was “fraught with risks, debt, uncertainties” were untrue.
He said the state opted for a joint-venture model with SRS Consortium to mitigate the risks and financial burden of the project.
“In the event of default, we have also agreed that all reclaimed land will not be subject to caveat by the lenders. This effectively mitigates the potential risks.”
Welfare of fishermen
Zairil also disagreed with Nurul Izzah that the reclamation project would affect the fishing community’s livelihood saying the state is offering ex-gratia packages and programmes that would provide long-term benefits to the 1,615 affected fishermen.
This, he said, includes cash payments, new boats and engines, meaning each fisherman would get a package of around RM60,000 depending on their category.
A fisheries sustainability programme which includes the use of artificial reefs, the release of fish and prawn fry, and funding for marine-related research will also be implemented.
“There will also be a re-skilling programme for full-time fishermen, providing them with gainful employment during the course of the project that is projected to last for years,” he said, inviting Nurul Izzah to come and meet the fishermen involved.
On the environmental concerns, Zairil said the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report has been studied and mitigation measures have been planned.
“Further to that, we have also incorporated studies by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Low Carbon Cities Framework, and the independent report by the Royal HaskoningDHV into the planning of the PSR.”
He added that 20% of the PSR land has been reserved for parks, mangroves, and wetlands, while the project aims to reduce carbon emissions by 40%, achieve 100% renewable energy usage, and reduce freshwater demand by 70%.