TWO major successes in one day has shown that we can never underestimate the power among ordinary people to bring about change.
The first was the fishing community’s successful appeal against the Department of Environment’s (DOE) approval of an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for a three-island mega-project.
The appeals board found that the plan, involving 4,500 acres of land reclamation in Penang, violated the then 2020 Penang Structure Plan, which was in force.
Non-governmental organisations (NGO) in Penang and many others had campaigned hard against this project over the last few years because they know it will destroy the fishing waters off southern Penang Island – a vital source of fishes for the state.
For this success, we congratulate Zakaria Ismail and the fishing community, the excellent legal team, the #PenangTolakTambak (Penang Rejects Reclamation) campaign, Penang Forum and all the activists and volunteers who rallied behind them.
Hopefully, the Penang state government will put an end to this deeply unpopular mega project.
The second success came when the Selangor state government bowed to immense public pressure and confirmed it was cancelling its plan to develop 54% of the 992ha Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve (KLNFR).
This is a victory for civil societies and for the pressure exerted by the larger public to stop such an ecologically damaging “development” project.
The decision came only hours after activists from the Coalition for the Protection of Selangor Forests (CPSF) managed to pass through police roadblocks to hand over a memorandum to the Selangor state government office.
In both campaigns, online petitions collected over 200,000 signatures. The rejection the Penang three-island project bagged 129,000 signatures while the opposition to the KLNFR project collected 102,000. Other related petitions drew tens of thousands more signatures.
At a time when many people have lost hope or are feeling disempowered, these two victories should tell us that together, we can make a difference when politicians, even those elected on a reform platform, let us down.
We should never underestimate the power of ordinary people to do great things, even if at first, they might seem to be in a minority.
And politicians behind such mega-projects must realise they can no longer take the public for granted. – Sept 9, 2021
The statement was issued by the Aliran executive committee
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.