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Sukau bridge project won't go ahead without EIA: YB
Published on: Sunday, January 22, 2017

Kota Kinabalu: The controversial Sukau bridge development, which is part of a two-phase Federal-funded project, will not be simply implemented without an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approval.Sukau Assemblyman Datuk Saddi Abdul Rahman said construction works on the project, including building the bridge across the Kinabatangan River, has yet to commence.

Although the project is approved under the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP), he said the EIA report is essential to ensure the project is safe to the environment and wildlife, among others, after all aspects have been taken into account.

"The project has actually been delayed for a year due to criticisms and views from various quarters on the project after the relevant quarters and authorities were given opportunities to give their feedback.

"Following that, measures have been taken to address their reservations on the project where the Terms of Reference (TOR) has been prepared for the EIA report.

"As a matter of fact, the TOR has been approved by the Environment Protection Department (EPD) and thus, the EIA report is being prepared now in compliance with the TOR," he said to Daily Express when met at his office in Wisma Pertanian, recently.

Saddi said land clearing that was claimed to be for the proposed Sukau bridge as reported in the Daily Express last Sunday (Jan 14) does not mean that the construction work on the project has commenced.

It was reported that netizens have expressed alarm over what they claimed to be land being cleared to build the controversial Sukau bridge, which major Sabah wildlife sponsor Sime Darby had warned against.

A Facebook account claimed that the land is being rented by the road and bridge contractor to store its heavy machinery and build a small office.

The EIA consultant was also reported as saying that the EIA had not been completed and that the Sabah Wildlife Department shall set a Special Committee for this project where related NGOs would be included in the panel to review Dr Raymond Alfred's report as wildlife assessment is still in a very preliminary stage and the report can only be completed in April or May.

In fact, Saddi said he was not in the know about the land clearing works until the villagers who were concerned of such works had notified him about the matter.

Immediately, he said he went to the exact site and did his own investigation on the matter to find out whether what was being reported in the paper was true or not.

"I was also surprised that the developer and its consultant did not inform the community leaders, including me, about carrying out land clearing works on the area in Kg Sukau that is not far from the Sukau New Township site.

"As a result of my own investigation, I found out that concerned area that was being cleared belonged to a villager who owns 1.86 hectares and she has a land lease agreement with the developer for a period of two years signed on Nov 26 last year.

"I was told that the developer is only using up two acres of the privately-owned land that has been idle for quite some time. They are clearing the villager's (owner) land to set up the site office but it does not mean that they are developing the project as the EIA report has not been obtained," he said.

Saddi said it was not true that the rental agreement for two years and six months has been paid in advance as reported in the paper because the landowner would be paid six months rental throughout the period beginning Dec 1, 2016 until Dec, 2018 as stated in the agreement.

Furthermore, he said the developer via its contractor has been allowed by the Public Works Department (PWD) to enter the land and that he has seen the letter addressed to the developer where the contractor can start operating its site office on Jan 23.

Hence, prior to the exact date of being at the site, he said the contractor began the preparatory work of setting up the site office by clearing the land.

"In other words, the contractor has complied with all necessary procedures and processes before going into the said land that is not a forest or wildlife reserve.

"But I can assure that the contractor would not start construction works on the project without the EIA report," Saddi said.

According to him, the project is funded by the Rural and Regional Development Ministry (KKLW) approved under the 11MP with allocations of over RM200 million.

He said the project has two phases of development in which the first phase is to build the second bridge which is now known as the Sukau bridge that will have the concept of the existing first bridge in Batu Putih, Sukau and upgrading the existing gravel path to have improved road conditions.

The second phase, he said, involves constructing a viaduct of about one-kilometre that looks like a flyover on Lot 1 of the Lower Kinabatangan Sanctuary and not as reported in the paper at Lot M.

He said he does not think that the project would block or prevent migration of wildlife as expressed by the NGOs and other quarters.

"I was born and had lived in Sukau including during my childhood days and I perfectly know that the villagers would never harm or hunt the animals as they have lived in Sukau with them for so many decades and there has never been any record of an incident where the villagers would hunt them down.

"Building the proposed viaduct at an additional cost of RM150 million allows the migration of wildlife underneath the viaduct and thus could create another possible tourism product of a night safari where tourists can stop by the viaduct and see the animals passing below the viaduct.

"Hence, this clearly will not prevent migration of wildlife in the area as many had claimed the project would negatively affect the animals and tourism aspects," he said.

Saddi said the project is not building a new route and roads as being claimed but it is upgrading existing routes that would shorten travel time of the villagers in remote coastal villages such as Kg Dagat, Kg Tundun Bohangun, which is an island, Kg Seri Ganda, Kg Tidung and Kg Litang.

He said the viaduct was proposed to be constructed in such a way so that wildlife could still migrate along the wildlife corridor and this has been agreed to by relevant authorities with the Government agreeing to finance the additional cost of RM150 million for the project.

He said presently the villagers who are mostly fishermen have to use boats of 15 horsepower to get medical treatment for serious ailments at the hospital in Lahad Datu and Sandakan which takes them between two and three hours to reach the destination.

He said more than 10 fatal cases of villagers from the remote villages in Sukau dying after failing to get immediate medical attention, including women giving birth while being transported to the two district hospitals.

By having the Sukau bridge and upgrading the existing routes as well as the viaduct, Saddi said the villagers can get faster medical treatment in the health clinic in Sukau New Township that has hospital standards in less than an hour rather than going to the district hospitals in Sandakan and Lahad Datu.

Furthermore, he said the project would facilitate the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) security forces in carrying out their patrols in his constituency.



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