© Provided by Free Malaysia Today The Papar River in Mondoringin, Sabah, which villagers believe is one of the sites being considered
KOTA KINABALU: A grassroots movement fighting against the construction of the Kaiduan and Papar dams has expressed dismay over the state government’s plan to proceed with the Papar dam, possibly at its original location in Penampang.
The Taskforce Against Kaiduan Dam (Takad) had objected to the Barisan Nasional-initiated Kaiduan dam project in Penampang, and later the Papar dam proposal by the previous Warisan-led government.
Yesterday, Deputy Chief Minister Bung Moktar Radin announced that the Papar dam will be one of two megaprojects that will proceed as planned. The other is the Tanjung Aru Eco Development (TAED) project.
Bung, who is also the state infrastructure development minister, said the government was thinking of shifting the dam project back to Penampang, since it could serve the population longer than one in Papar.
Takad spokesman Diana Sipail said the group was “extremely disappointed” by the decision, which she described as irresponsible and made without thinking of the fate of the indigenous residents in the area as well as the impact on the environment.
Sipail said Bung, who is also the Sabah BN chief, had also ignored a call by the coalition’s top adviser and former prime minister Najib Razak for the new state government to scrap the Papar dam project last September.
She said Najib had, in a Facebook post, claimed that there were also discrepancies in the awarding of the project to a peninsula-based company through direct negotiation.
“He also urged the government to replace the project with off-river storage facilities as well as solar power panels which will have far less impact environmentally.
“Why did Bung not take heed of this? Why didn’t his ministry assess or probe the claims (by Najib)? We urge Bung to be transparent and fair in this matter.”
Sipail said Takad would continue the fight to defend their customary land and the environment.
© Provided by Free Malaysia Today A protest led by Takad against the construction of the Papar dam in August last year.
She said the group supported an alternative suggestion by geologist Felix Tongkul from Universiti Malaysia Sabah to build natural water reservoirs to solve the water woes instead of the dam.
“We are dejected that we, being the affected community, are again sidelined without proper consultation and discussion through this decision,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Sabah Environmental Protection Association (Sepa) has supported Takad, saying the Babagon dam, which is also in Penampang, was supposed to supply water for at least 50 years.
“These were promises made pre-1997 and a mere 23 years later, it is being deemed as insufficient. The people have lost faith in the government,” Sepa’s past president, Lanash Thanda, said.
She said public confidence could only be attained if studies were carried out with no conflict of interest, followed by proper planning and environmental processes.
“Without that, all developments will not be sustainable.”
On the TAED project, Sepa acting president Julia Hwong welcomed the assurance by Bung that no reclamation would be carried out at Tanjung Aru beach, but said the people needed to know the government’s plans for the undertaking.
“Transparency is paramount in projects that will affect the public. TAED is a legacy that the people of Sabah should not accept. So Bung saying no reclamation and public beaches will remain public is good news. But we need to see the action that suits the words,” she said,
Another NGO, Save Open Space Kota Kinabalu, also welcomed Bung’s assurance, with its coordinator, SM Muthu, saying: “We are against reclamation and want to save the beachfront as well as to conserve the historic rugby field in the area.
“It’s good to know there won’t be any reclamation. We are not against development, only against destructive ones.
“We hope to meet up with Bung to discuss some finer points like reserving the beachfront for the people and ensuring the contractors follow the laws strictly.”