A fishing boat returns from the sea off the southern coast of the Malaysian island of Penang. The area, next to the airport, is the site for an ambitious plan to create three artificial islands [Kate Mayberry/Al Jazeera]

Sungai Batu, Penang, Malaysia – People from the villages hugging Penang’s southern coast have fished the seas off the Malaysian island for generations, scooping up prawns and digging out crabs to feed its food-loving residents.

The fishermen know the vagaries of tide and wind, and the dangers of the monsoon that sweeps in each June.

But now their existence is under threat.

The government of the state of Penang wants to create three artificial islands covering 1,821 hectares off the gently curving bays where the fishermen live

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