The aquaculture project would destroy mangrove forests, pollute the sea, threaten fisheries resources and livelihood of coastal fishers, besides exposing the people and paddy fields here to the threat of storms, effects of tsunami and saltwater intrusion, said the Consumers Association of Penang.
The shrimp farming project to be undertaken by the Aquaculture Operators Association of Penang (Persatuan Pengusaha Akuakultur Pulau Pinang - PENKUA) would cover an area of 204 hectares including mangrove forest from Kuala Bekah River in the south to Kuala Muda River in the north.
The proposed project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has yet to be approved. The Association believes that if this project is given the go ahead, there would be detrimental effects on the environment and the lives of people in the area.
The Association's survey found that many people in the surrounding area do not know about this proposed project. Many among them, especially the fishing community, are concerned about the problems that would occur if the project is implemented.
It is estimated that the livelihood of about 1,000 coastal fishermen in the surrounding area would be affected if the mangrove trees are felled and the sea on which they depend for their livelihood is threatened by pollution from shrimp pond effluent. Fish, shrimp, crabs, clams and molluscs that are a source of income for the fishers will disappear if the mangrove forests are destroyed for the development of aquaculture ponds.
At the same time thousands of villagers living near the coast would be exposed to the threat of storms, tsunamis and coastal erosion in the future. And hundreds of hectares of paddy fields and agricultural land could be affected by salt water (sea water) intrusion when the mangrove forest which reduces wave energy and functions as windbreaker is destroyed.
The implementation of large-scale aquaculture projects in the state is not a solution to the present shortage of seafood supply. Rather, the short supply of seafood stems from the environmental damage and destruction of mangroves, as occurred in Balik Pulau and Seberang Perai Selatan (SPS).
Nearly 2,000 fishermen in these two areas have suffered 50 per cent decline of catches over the past few years due to development and shrimp farming in their area.