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Controversial Sukau bridge project to go ahead?
Published on: Tuesday, February 18, 2020
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KOTA KINABALU: Speculation is rife that the scrapped controversial Sukau Bridge project that was denounced by global environmental icon Sir David Attenborough as disastrous for the elephants and orang utans – he produced some of his internationally acclaimed BBC documentaries there – is back on the table.

 However, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew who is also State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister declined to comment when asked if there was a U-turn on the mega project, Thursday.

 “Anything that we talk and discuss in the Cabinet is confidential,” she said.  On Monday, a news portal reported that a non-governmental organisation had urged the State Government to reconsider approval of major development projects, including the Sukau Bridge, if it is serious about the Sabah State Elephant Action Plan 2020/29.

 In 2017, the then Barisan Nasional (BN) State Government decided that the proposed construction of the bridge across the Kinabatangan River in Sukau would not go ahead.

 In making the decision, then Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman said he took into consideration all the concerns and opinions expressed related to the bridge, including by Sir Attenborough who had helped to popularise Sabah’s Kinabatangan as an ecotourism haven in his documentaries.

 It was understood that the project did not get the approval of the then State Cabinet, Federal Cabinet nor was in the 11th Malaysia Plan. However, interested quarters who were then in Sabah Umno decided to bypass the State Cabinet and approached former PM Datuk Seri Najib on the matter.

 The proposed RM223 million bridge would span 350 metres across the Kinabatangan River, which is on the migratory path of the endangered Bornean pygmy elephants.

 The project’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) was also yet to be approved when the contractor cleared an area for the project’s site office.

 The Sabah State Elephant Action Plan 2020/29 was approved by the State Government, recently, for the conservation of the dwindling elephant population in the State.

 The plan, for which the State Government has allocated RM20 million, comes in the wake of the deaths of at least six pygmy elephants late last year and early this year.

It seeks to protect and conserve the remaining elephant population in the state, estimated at between 1,500 and 2,000, and prevent their extinction.

 The plan was formulated by the Sabah Wildlife Department with the collaboration of “friends of conservation”, and has four primary objectives.

 The objectives are stepping up protection and stopping the killing of elephants; enhancing habitat connectivity and permeability; ensuring best practices in the management and ex situ conservation of elephants; and researching, monitoring and predicting elephant population trends.


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