GEORGE TOWN: The Penang South Islands (PSI) project is expected to get the green light soon, paving the way for work to begin by the third quarter of the year.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said approval for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report by the Environment Department is expected to be obtained by the end of this month.

“After getting the EIA approval, we will need to draw up an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) to mitigate the (impact of) reclamation and construction of the islands.

“The EMP will take the Environment Department about two to three months to approve.

“The state government will not start the PSI works until it gets all the necessary approvals,” he said at the Local Fishermen Service Centre in Sungai Batu yesterday.

Chow added that the project’s delivery partner, SRS Consortium Sdn Bhd, and the state will also look into shares in the mega project by forming a joint-venture company to finance and manage reclamation and development after the approvals are obtained.

While delays have led to higher costs in the project, SRS Consortium project director Szeto Wai Loong said it would be balanced with appreciation in land value.

Earlier, Chow witnessed the launch of several Social Impact Management Plan (SIMP) initiatives and the implementation of the PSR Ecology Offset Master Plan at the centre.

A memorandum of understanding to plant 200,000 trees and conserve the mangrove habitat in Penang involving the state, the Penang Forestry Department, the Penang Infrastructure Corporation, and the SRS Consortium was also signed at the event.

The collaboration is in line with the state’s goal to plant 500,000 trees by 2030.

Through a signed contract, USAINS Holdings would be allowed to conduct research on artificial and unjam reef ports (a kind of fish aggregation device) and release fish and shrimp fry under the PSR Ecology Offset Master Plan.

The research will involve the expertise of Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies.

A total of 11 fishermen also received certificates allowing them to attend the seafarer course under the SIMP scheme once the PSI project is approved.

In addition, requests by 12 fishermen from the Permatang Tepi Laut, Sungai Batu, Teluk Kumbar, and Gertak Sanggul units for new boats and engines would be considered.

Last year, 20 fishermen received new boats and engines, while nine successfully completed their seafarer’s course.