Seeking common ground on land reclamation

The community at the Portuguese Settlement fear losing their seafront with the Malacca Waterfront Economic Zone project. — Filepic

MELAKANS living along the state’s coastline always fear any talk of reclamation.

The local media too faces a Catch-22 situation whenever the matter surfaces.

On one hand, the Melaka government feels any negative publicity on the issue will derail their aim to create jobs and business opportunities for locals.

However, those affected, such as at the Portuguese Settlement, the scenic Pantai Puteri as well as Pengkalan Balak, worry about losing their seafront and want the media to speak up on their behalf.

Critics say the projects would further erode the marine ecosystem in the Straits of Malacca and affect the livelihood of fishermen.

Reclamation has also impacted at least 10 nesting sites for the critically endangered hawksbill turtle.

Locals want the state government to reveal the viability of the Melaka Waterfront Economic Zone (M-WEZ) project – launched last month – and how it will affect surrounding areas.

Some accuse the state government of pushing the plan through without consulting stakeholders.

They say such large-scale projects along the coastline should not go ahead without macro environmental and social impact assessments.

Opposition leaders, meanwhile, have seized the opportunity to jump onto the anti-M-WEZ bandwagon, failing to realise that the previous state government had wanted to go ahead with the now-shelved Melaka Gateway project.

That project too had received brickbats, especially from Portuguese community leaders.

Melaka Portuguese Eurasian Association president Michael Singho had said the

multi-billion-ringgit Melaka Gateway was akin to a death knell for the 500-year-old heritage site synonymous with the community.

The project ground to a halt in November last year after the state government terminated its three-year concession for land reclamation of islands that would form the foundation of Melaka Gateway.

In my opinion, nothing will stop the Melaka government from going ahead with the M-WEZ project, which covers an area of 10,117ha along 33km of the state’s coastline.

Furthermore, it had consulted the Federal Government for the project and presented the blueprint to the National Physical Planning Council.

Stakeholders and affected residents should hold dialogues with key state government officials to voice their concerns and look for amicable solutions.

A face-to-face meeting would definitely help both parties reach a result.

The decision-makers, as Melakans, would also not like to see the state losing its seafront, with its historical importance.

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