Published on: Thursday, August 07, 2014
Its Sabah chief Jimmy Wong and vice chief Chan Foong Hin said it was imperative for Mannan to come down personally in view of objections from the local community about logging activities in the area.
Speaking to reporters, Wednesday, Chan who is Sri Tanjong Assemblyman, said that even Balung Pemaju Mukim, Amissain Latip, urged the Prime Minister to step in and investigate the on-going logging there.
Chan who visited the site and met Amissain, an Umno branch chief in Balung, said the community there urged the Government to stop the land clearing in the forest for the geothermal power plant by Tawau Green Energy (TGE).
"I have conducted an onsite visit to Tawau Green Energy (TGE) geothermal power plant site, Andrassy, Apas Kiri, Tawau to have first hand information on the 'illegal logging causes Tawau flash flood' allegation by Kalabakan MP Ghapur Salleh," he said.
Chan claimed Amissain also said that Balung Assemblyman Datuk Syed Abas Syed Ali did not dare speak out on the matter.
He said what irritated the villagers most were the negative environmental impacts such as river bank erosion, river turning muddy and flooding, which never happened before the TGE project site clearing started.
About 600 villagers were affected as they depended on river water as the source for daily routines. Logging trucks passing by the village, especially near a primary school, SK Ranggu, also posed a risk to road users and school children.
The project is located at the Andrassy First Class Forest Reserve, part of Tawau Hills Park, which is the water catchment area for Tawau, with an area of 27,972 hectares.
Chan said the site clearing had been reported to cover 125 hectares, which is about the size of Penang Island. "Tawau residents are very concerned over the possible environmental impact especially flash floods due to deteriorated water catchment capacity," he said.
Chan claimed Mannan was trying to divert attention from the core of the issue by saying that Andrassy Forest Reserve was encroached for illegal oil palm activities before, and it may accelerate floods as years go by. Mannan's contention that the timber production was largely due to the need for road access to the geothermal project site in Tawau Hills also does not hold water, said Chan.
"Our site inspection shows us that the 18km access road is ready, but yet to be tarred.
The Federal government is allocating facilitated fund of RM35 million to construct the access road. "So, why are they still witnessing truck loads of logs coming out?" he said, adding that is why there should be a joint inspection.
He alleged that based on a search with the Companies Commission, it is an Umno crony project.
Chan urged the Sabah Forestry Department to disclose all the logs inventory record, buyers of logs (the log trucks end their route in Ladalam Timber Complex, Tanjong Batu), and whether the logs inventory record between Sabah Parks and buyers tallied or not.
Based on the official answer from State Assembly, 6,563 logs or 20,049.55 cubic metre were felled from June 2013 to March 2014 while the royalty paid was RM2,672,745.45 and RM4,009,910.00 (20,049m3 X RM200).
"These figures should be accounted for," he said, adding that the Auditor General should conduct an independent audit on the logs inventory.
The Tawau Green Energy should disclose the current project status, openly inviting people's representatives, local community leaders, environmental NGOs to visit the site as drilling of the tube well to exploit the geothermal energy was said to have started in the middle of this year, he said.
"People are worried over the possibility of the project turning out to be a "white elephant"," he said. Sabah Parks as the land owner, he said should also demand the project developer stop temporaly until the air is cleared.
"They should disclose to the public, the actual logging area location and the area involved," he said. Chan said the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) should also come in to stop work because he claimed there had been a breach in the terms of reference.
Under its terms of reference, the Preliminary Site Assessment Report for the project was only valid, if the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the earthwork for the geothermal power plant site has been submitted and approved by EPD.
"Until November last year, there was no submission of any EIA of the earthwork yet.
Besides, according to Sabah Environmental Protection Association (SEPA), all forestry activities are regulated under environment protection rules and "felling or extraction of timber covering an area of 100ha or more but less than 500ha, requires submission of PMM (Proposed Mitigation Measures) to the Environment Protection Department (EPD)".
"Sepa claims that a check with EPD showed no PMM had been submitted by either Sabah Parks or TGE," he said.
"The Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) should step in to investigate," he said.
Last week, Tawau was hit by flash floods and questions were asked if it had something to do with the clearing of forest for the geothermal power plant project.
Mannan had responded that the trees were felled legally.
However, he said Andrassy and Ulu Kalumpang, in the past had been badly encroached with about 4,000 hectares being planted with oil palm. It had since undergone rehabilitation by the department.