Published on: Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Kota Kinabalu: Sabah's decision to plug any further reclamation of Kota Kinabalu's waterfront is a positive step and should eventually be extended to include the seafront that stretches from Tanjung Aru beach to Kinarut, said Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP).
Its Executive Director, Cynthia Ong, said it was significant that the decision had come from the State Legislative Assembly, making it difficult for any party to make claims on the seafront from Likas Bay to Tanjung Aru.
"The decision has teeth in the sense that it was made at the Assembly sitting. It is indeed long overdue, and LEAP supports the State Government's commitment to protect Kota Kinabalu's waterfront," she said.
"We wish to see protection of more seafront areas, in particular from Tanjung Aru beach towards Kinarut. There are mangroves in the Lok Kawi area that should be saved from any possible future development.
She said this in response to the State Government's landmark decision to stop further reclamation of the Kota Kinabalu waterfront.
"Leap is also working with several groups to initiate a water quality project at Tanjung Aru beach. The water quality there is poor, and we must urgently address this so that locals and visitors can enjoy the sea and the beach. It is one of the best and most accessible places for locals to relax with their families," she said.
Ong said legally protecting the beachfront from development is something that LEAP strongly advocates.
Advisor to Sabah Environment Protection Association (Sepa), S. Muthu, said it is "very good" that the State Legislative Assembly had approved a Bill barring any development on the Kota Kinabalu seafront totalling 1,555 hectres from Tanjung Aru to Likas Bay.
" Yes, it is very good and hopefully this ban is not limited to this short stretch but extends to the whole of Sabah's coastlines," Muthu said in place of Sepa President Wong Tack who is in Kuantan.
"The State Government should stop all coastal projects which are deemed detrimental to Sabah's coastal environment, even if the development plan had been approved and the piling done, in the long term interest of Sabah," Muthu added.
"Some of these have already been advertised for sale, we appeal the State Government to cancel them or otherwise they benefit only those who got these seafront lands and become extra rich," Muthu said.
"I am very happy that they have made this into law because don't forget a group of private citizens like us had to fight very hard against the proposed reclamation of 500 acres of Likas Bay to build a new City Centre for Kota Kinabalu dating back to 1996," Muthu asserted.
"The developer in that joint venture project secured the right to build a new City Hall in return for the ownership of the reclaimed land but the State Government finally cancelled it after years of vocal public protest," Muthu recalled. "As a result, City Hall later turned the Likas Bay beach into a public recreational park for the benefit of the common folks of the Capital City," he said.
"But instead of coming from us through protests that often end in bad blood, it is far better that the State Government take the initiative to take a good look at the big picture and use its legal mandate like this case, to protect not only the seafront beauty throughout Sabah but also the functions of our entire coastal marine systems that produce Sabah's world famous seafood," Muthu said.
"That's a job only a government can do but we have seen in the past where the Government had declared no more mega shopping complexes only to see developers kept building them," Muthu noted.
"On the other hand, we have seen the power of the Government to cancel approved development projects, " Muthu claimed, citing the Maju project in Kudat.
Meanwhile, the WWF-Malaysia Sabah Office said they would study the State Legislative Assembly decision before making a comment.
The Malaysian Nature Society Sabah branch commended the decision and would comment in more detail later.