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The fear of catch reduction

  • Fishermen go fishing on small boats everyday. Photo courtesy: Guang Ming Daily
  • Fishermen do not want their simple life to be affected by the industrial development projects. Photo courtesy: Guang Ming Daily
  • A road paving project is underway under a rural area transformation plan. Photo courtesy: Guang Ming Daily
  • Ikan Senangin. Photo courtesy: Guang Ming Daily
  • Fisherman Amir. Photo courtesy: Guang Ming Daily
  • Fisherman Wang. Photo courtesy: Guang Ming Daily
  • Fisherman Mohamad Nor. Photo courtesy: Guang Ming Daily
  • Fisherman Azuan. Photo courtesy: Guang Ming Daily
  • Hamidah: Atigas Technology is currently waiting for the environmental impact assessment report from the Environment Department. Photo courtesy: Guang Ming Daily

Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE
Guang Ming Daily

The Perak government's announcement of the two major development projects in Tanjung Hantu, namely a steel factory and a LNG plant, has worried villagers of Kampung Labuan Bilis, which is located less than 5km from Tanjung Hantu.

Local villagers said that there are less than 50 families living in the village and they have been living there for two or three generations. Most of the villagers are fishermen and only a small number of them are engaged in farming and tourism. They are worried that once the projects are completed, it might contaminate the sea, affect their catches and eventually cause them to lose their jobs.

Local fishermen said that they hope the government can have a dialogue with them to understand their worries before approving big development projects.

Perak State executive councillor Datuk Hamidah Osman explained when being pressed by Guang Ming Daily reporter that the approved LNG plant is located far from the forest reserves turtle conservative centre and it should not affect the operation of the conservative centre. However, she will pay an on-site visit to understand the real situation.

The two major development projects in the forest reserves of Tanjung Hantu are allegedly inconsistent with environmental regulations. Since many doubts have not yet been clarified, the projects have caused environmental protection organisations to stay in high alert. Hamidah, who made the development projects announcement, promised to follow up and thoroughly investigate where the problems lie.

Hamidah, who is responsible for the state' trade and industrial investment, enterprise development, informative technology, tourism and women's affairs, admitted that the government indeed approved a piece of land to Atigas Technology Sdn Bhd but insisted that it is located far away from the forest reserves and turtle conservation centre.

She said, "Atigas Technology is currently waiting for the environmental impact assessment report from the Environment Department and thus, we have no idea when the construction works will begin."

When being asked whether the logging activities in the forest reserves are related to the construction, Hamidah said that she did not know, but will find it out as soon as possible to ensure no illegal logging activity is running in the forest protection area.

A joint press conference was held on June 9, 2011 to announce the project. The state government approved a 150 acres land to build a LNG plant. The investment achieved RM5.8 billion.

She said at that time that the project could be completed within 15 months and it was expected to supply one-third of the country's natural gas market.

To inspect Teluk Senangin soon

Hamidah said that to promote tourism, the state government has almost uninterruptedly held tourism activities in the state's tourism spots, such as the coastal cleaning-up campaign initiated by the residents.

She said that the government is also studying the problem of reduced number of visitors to the turtle reservation centre. Therefore, she is going to inspect Teluk Senangin soon.

"Teluk Senangin is a well-known fishing village and the state government will organise fishing contests from time to time to attract visitors," she said.

No project signboard at the construction site yet

Kampung Kedah is also known as Kampung Senangin. Local fishermen told Guang Ming Daily that it has been some time since the announcement of the projects was made but the construction has not been started so far and even the construction site has not yet been fenced. There is no project signboard either and they can only see logging activities in the forest.

A fisherman said that he got to know about the projects through TV news about 10 years ago. A group of people had taken a fishing boat to Tanjung Hantu for inspection and sea depth measurement taking. However, they have seen no other inspection groups since then.

"Even though Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir had attended a few activities here this year, he did not mention about the development projects," they said.

However, they are not optimistic about the projects and worried that once the seawater is contaminated, their catches might be affected, causing them no longer able to survive on fishing. At the same time, they are also worried that big cargo ships might also block their fishing boats.

Most of the catches are shrimps, crabs, Ikan Senangin, Ikan Talang and Ikan Bawar.

Remote Tanjung Hantu is difficult to reach

Tanjung Hantu is located at a very remote area which is completely surrounded by woods. The roads are rugged and usually only lorries carrying tree trunks could be seen. It takes three hours to reach the area if one walks from Kampung Labuan Bilis, the nearest fishing village. However, the stone path will be submerged during high tides, pedestrians might be trapped.

In addition, the location to build the steel factory and LNG plant is actually very near to Teluk Senangin. The site had been listed as one of the places to be turned into a leisure seaside resort but no action has been taken so far, causing the fishing villagers nearby remain primitive and they got power and water supplies only five years ago.

To make a living, some fishermen used their hard-earned money to build small hostels to earn extra income.

What fishermen said...

Amir, 19 years old: No project signboards

I heard that a steel factory and a LNG plant will be built in Tanjung Hantu but have seen no construction works being started so far. There is also no project signboard being placed at the site. My greatest worry is, after the projects are completed, the big cargo ships might block our small fishing boats. Our livings will be affected if we cannot go fishing as usual.

Wang, 23 years old: Fear of catch reduction

I am worried that after the projects are completed, the sea production might reduce and fishermen's livelihood might be affected. I finished only my primary school education and it would be quite difficult to get another job if I have to stop fishing because of industrial development.

The state Menteri Besar has repeatedly visited the fishing village but never mentioned about the industrial development projects. I believe that the plan might have been temporarily shelved.

Mohamad Nor, 53 years old: I hope that the authorities can listen to us

I got to know about the development plan through TV news about 10 years ago. However, in addition to some logging activities, I have never seen any construction works. Therefore, I do not know where exactly the steel factory and LNG plant will be built.

I hope that the government can listen to us first to understand what impacts might be brought to local fishermen before approving development projects in Tanjung Hantu.

I have been a fisherman for the past 20 years and I do not know what to do if we have to stop fishing one day because of the industrial development.

Azuan, 36 years old: I was told about the development projects

A group of seven or eight people had taken a fishing boat to Tanjung Hantu for inspection. They took measurement of the sea depth. However, no any other inspection groups has been seen after that.

I found some logging activities at the forest area when I went to fishing two years ago. When I approached and asked, they told me that a steel factory and a LNG plant would be built there. However, I have seen no construction works over the past two years.

I do not want the factory and plant there as they could affect fishing activities. Fishermen will lose the instinct of finding a livelihood if they are forced to stop fishing.

See:

The weeping turtles
No signs of construction, only felled woods
The fear of catch reduction

 

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