Feast of San Pedro in danger of disappearing if massive land reclamation allowed

Theseira handing over the protest letter to a representative of Melaka Environment Department. Looking on is Khoo (second from left).

MELAKA: The Feast of San Pedro will be a thing of the past if the wanton reclamation work planned along the shoreline of the Portuguese Settlement is not controlled, says an activist.

Save The Portuguese Action Committee chairman Martin Theseira said the annual festival to commemorate the Feast Day of St Peter, the patron saint of the fishermen, will cease by 2030.

“Promises made to the community since 1974 has been reneged on several occasions by developers and the state government,” he said after handing over a protest letter signed by more than 200 individuals to the state Environment Department here on Thursday (Feb 2).

Theseira was accompanied by Kota Melaka MP Khoo Poay Tiong, members of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and local residents.

The NGOs had called for the 481ha reclamation project for a proposed deep-sea port to be shelved as it impacts environmentally sensitive areas, including a major fishing zone, a gazetted marine park and mangroves.

Theseira said as a former fisherman, he had seen catches depleted over the years and many fishermen had been forced to find other sources of livelihood.

“The Melaka Portuguese heritage is related to the sea for sustenance and livelihood.

“Without the sea, we will lose our heritage and cultural landscapes,” he said.

He said the state government should also stop depending on an outdated macro Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that was made in 1997 to justify gargantuan reclamation works.

“This massive project will also impact our coastline and will have a negative impact on the marine ecosystem,” he said.

Theseira added such huge reclamation works also caused flash floods in the city and affected the drainage and effluent discharge systems.

When contacted, Khoo said the NGOs and residents were not against development but they did not want “unsustainable” development.

He said the state had previously carried out many sea-reclamation projects but many were unsuccessful and had problems, and turned into a “white elephant” project.

Khoo also said the new project would destroy important fishing grounds in the state and impact the fishing industry.

“Such projects are not only impacting the local fishermen, but also the state’s food security,” he said.

Khoo said the state government must take into consideration two existing ports in Melaka - Tanjung Bruas Port and the Kuala Linggi International Port before approving another.

“There are also other major ports near ours,” he said.

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