Wednesday, January 25, 2017

In RM79m Kinabatangan bridge, another human-wildlife dilemma

KOTA KINABALU — A federal government road and bridge project into Sabah’s ecotourism hub of Sukau in Kinabatangan may benefit the local community, however, the RM79 million project will more than likely harm the wildlife, including the endangered Borneo pygmy elephants that roam the area, said the state’s Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Pang Yuk Ming.

Chorusing concerned environmentalists, Pang urged Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman and his state Cabinet to review the project, saying it is certain to cause even more wildlife and human conflict and potentially cut off a major income-earner for tourism players and the local community for generations to come.

“The CM and Cabinet might have to relook this thing seriously. They may have decided already on the project but given the seriousness and long-term effects of the project, they need to give it second thought, with new and thorough facts.

“Having been in the industry long enough to know the patterns, it is inevitable that the project will negatively impact the tourism industry which is thriving in the area. I believe that if the state government is presented with the right argument and information, I believe they can be persuaded to relook the situation,” he told a select group of reporters here.

The approved project has still to get an Environmental Impact Assessment report and as such, Pang suggested that it could still be withdrawn in the interest of the public.

“There is no way a project of this sort will not have an impact on the environment, and we have seen the negative impact from human and wildlife conflict in other areas of Sabah,” he said.

Other prominent figures to have expressed concern over the project’s irreparable impact on the environment include Sime Darby foundation chairman Tun Musa Hitam.

The road and bridge project under the 11th Malaysia Plan plans to build a 100m bridge across the Kinabatangan river in Lot 3 of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. It also includes upgrading a gravel road from the Sukau township up to the bridge.

In support of the road-bridge project

According to Sukau assemblyman Datuk Saddi Abdul Rahman, it was supposed to kick off last year, but was postponed due to objections.

The second phase of the project involves a 1km-wide viaduct, which would look like a flyover across the elephant sanctuary area and another 8.5km stretch of road, ostensibly to provide villagers in Sukau closer access to a clinic.