GEORGE TOWN, Feb 14 — A group of fishermen, along with two non-governmental organisations (NGO), have filed an application for judicial review to challenge the planning permission approval for the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project.

The fishermen, led by Zakaria Ismail, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) and Jaringan Ekologi dan Iklim (JEDI) filed the application at the Penang High Court on December 29 last year to challenge the approval given by the Penang state director of town and country planning on August 21 last year.

The Penang High Court granted leave for the applicants to proceed with the judicial review application on February 5 this year.

The nine applicants named the Penang state director of town and country planning (PLANMalaysia) as the first respondent, Penang state planning committee as the second respondent, Penang state government as the third respondent and the project delivery partner, SRS Consortium Sdn Bhd, as the fourth respondent.


Zakaria, as the first applicant, filed the judicial review for himself and on behalf of the fishermen living off the coast who were adversely affected by the PSR project.

“Our livelihood was badly affected since the reclamation project started on September 1 last year,” Zakaria told a joint press conference held together with SAM and JEDI.

He said their catch had dropped by more than 50 per cent since the reclamation works for PSR, now known as Silicon Island, started.


The prawn catch for the fourth quarter of 2022 was 192.41kg but it had dropped to 92.69kg in the fourth quarter of 2023, he said.

“The catch dropped even more in January this year compared to the same period of previous years especially during Chinese New Year when demand is high,” he said.

In January 2022 and 2023, the average prawn catch was at 284.54kg and 286.04kg respectively but in January this year, it has dropped to 120.91kg.

“This is a drop of more than 50 per cent from previous years and this means fishermen will suffer an average 50 per cent loss in income,” he said.

Zakaria, who is the head of Sungai Batu fishermen unit, said as the project progresses, fishermen will potentially be further impacted as the catch will drop further and this will also mean an increase in prawn prices.

JEDI president Khoo Salma Nasution said the public will have noticed that they were not able to buy fresh wild caught prawns, especially during this festive season.

“We have staged so many protests since 2019 but it all fell on deaf ears,” she said.

She said the only avenue now is to bring the authorities to court and try to stop the project through the judicial review application.

Meenakshi Raman, who is the lawyer for the fishermen, SAM and JEDI, said the state government has a duty to protect the environment, apart from the issues faced by the fishermen.

We hope the court will grant a stay against the project pending the final disposal of this judicial review application,” she said.

She said if they succeed in their judicial review application, the state will have to restore the condition of the sea to its original condition.

“This is a public interest case and the first time that the state is being held accountable for a project that potentially impacts the environment,” she said.

In their application for judicial review, the applicants are requesting that the planning permission be void and of no effect as it violates the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act 1976.

They are seeking an order of certiorari to quash the decision granting the planning permission to the Penang state government to commence the reclamation works.

They are also applying for an order for the Penang state government and SRS to immediately restore all damages to the area to its original state and that they pay damages to the applicants and the fishermen due to loss of income.

Among the grounds for their application was that they claimed that the respondents had committed a serious error of law when the PSR Masterplan was referred to the National Physical Planning Council for advice and directions under the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 when the Draft Structure Plan 2030 was not in effect yet.

They also claimed that there was no completed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Report for the PSR at the time the planning permission was approved as the EIA process, under the Environmental Quality Act 1974 includes the right to statutory appeal.

The fishermen had filed an appeal at the Appeals Board in May 2023 against the Department of Environmental’s approval of the EIA but the Appeal Board is yet to set a date to hear the appeal.

The case management of the suit will be on February 19 to decide on the hearing date for the stay application.