PETALING JAYA: The Penang South Islands (PSI) land reclamation project had undergone a comprehensive and transparent due process that led to the approval of the PSI project, said Gamuda Bhd.
Gamuda, which is the majority shareholder of the project's developer SRS Consortium Sdn Bhd, said the approval of the PSI project covers not only the concerns of the environmentalists and the ‘anti-development’ lobby, but also balances that with the well-being of the communities in the vicinity of the project.
"Most of all, the economic development roadmap agreed with the Penang State planners for the benefit of the overwhelming majority. The recent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approval was secured following a stringent and professional process starting in 2021, including two public displays to gather public feedback and a series of technical review meetings," Gamuda said in a statement yesterday.
"The process involved subject matter experts and specialist studies covering hydraulics and hydrology, social impact, marine and coastal ecology. Over 4,000 official feedbacks were registered during the public display process, of which an overwhelming 93% of public comments were positive," the company said.
Gamuda said its partners in the project are the local community, adding that a survey by independent consultants revealed that 63% of the fishing community in the south coast of Penang Island have a monthly income of between RM1,000 to RM2,000.
"We are determined to improve their livelihoods by immediately improving their catch and eventually by preparing them for the job opportunities arising from the long-term project. Together with the Penang State, through our three service centres or Pusat Khidmat Setempat Nelayan: we are providing larger boats with bigger engines," it said.
"We are also upgrading local berthing and boat repair facilities, as well as ensuring all-weather access to the sea. In the next 24 months alone, we have identified 550 marine-related jobs for the local workforce, from seafaring work to being crew members of the sand dredgers," Gamuda added.
The company said it is now also developing the training modules to be used as part of the ‘on-the-job training’ to ensure their fitness for the purpose.
In the longer term over the next 20 years, thousands of jobs will also be available during the construction phase, it said.
Gamuda said it also plans to roll out technical and vocational education and training courses for the local youth as a way of uplifting livelihoods through better paying jobs.
"We can understand the indignation of our service centre staff who frequently witness self anointed non-governmental organisations personalities whizzing through the site in two hours and then appearing in the media the next day, berating the project and pouring out their sympathy for the fishermen," it said.
"The clamour for the project to be scaled down or even scrapped by parties that are uneasy or unhappy with the approval decision reflects the scant regard for the integrity of the due process and even the rule of law underlying it. What are the implications for the approval process of future development projects? Are foreign investors more reassured and undeterred from investing in our country," Gamuda added.
The company also noted that the EIA approval conditions also encompass measures under the PSI Ecology Offset Masterplan, where relevant government agencies and academic institutions jointly collaborate to develop programmes designed to enhance marine biodiversity in the project vicinity.