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'Catastrophic consequences' warning on Sukau bridge
Published on: Tuesday, January 17, 2017
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'Catastrophic consequences' warning on Sukau bridge
Kota Kinabatangan: Objection to Sukau bridge and road remains hot in view of hard scientific data collected over the past one year or more.Calling it "a bridge to extinction," Belgian geneticist Dr Benoit Goossens, Director of Danau Girang Field Centre, said in a statement Monday that he sees a spectre of Kinabatangan Corridor of Life ending as a corridor of death.

"It is very anti-climatic, especially because the road/bridge project blatantly contradicts two State-endorsed policy documents on wildlife that vow to stop any further habitat fragmentation in Kinabatangan from major infrastructures.

"In the past 12 months, we have clearly demonstrated with scientific facts and data that the bridge and the road directly impact the wildlife populations, particularly the elephants, orang-utans and proboscis monkeys," said Dr Goossens.

The new public road that will subsequently follow the bridge will cut off the last remaining uninhabited route for elephants near Sukau, which will have catastrophic consequences for both the animals and the people, he argued.

"Major conflicts will arise, deaths from elephant attacks on people, elephants shot dead or poisoned will occur.

"Moreover, we have just lost three bull elephants from poaching. This will increase easy penetration of poachers into protected forests, especially of ivory traders, and increase the pressure on the elephant population in Sabah," said Goossens. He said a combination of a bridge and an aggressive highway will cost Sabah dearly in the eventual loss of one the largest and richest cargoes of wildlife known.

"Everybody knows the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary is home to one of the largest populations of elephant and one of the largest population of proboscis monkeys, 800 orang-utans are still roaming free in its forest.

"Are we ready to sacrifice 10pc of Sabah's elephant population located in the most strategic and world famous eco-wildlife destination, 30pc of Sabah's proboscis monkey and 10pc of Sabah orang-utan population?"

Goossens said he found the contradictions that threaten to kill a proverbial "goose that lays the golden egg" most inconceivable.

"At a time when eco-tourism in Sabah is flamboyant and is becoming one of the top sources of income to the State, are we ready to blow this massive opportunity of sustainable source of income for many generations to come?" he asked.

"While I am 100pc for finding harmony between development and conservation, I still don't understand the drive behind the proposed bridge/road.

"For the past 20years, residents of the villages of Lintang, Dagat, Parit, Tomonggong and Seri Ganda, all of which are located south of Kinabatangan, have been using the Jeroco Road to go to Lahad Datu.

Even with a new bridge at Sukau township, Sandakan will be twice as far to travel as to Lahad Datu," Goossens noted.

"It would be wiser to upgrade existing roads than build a new one that will primarily benefit plantations as about 95pc of people living in Sukau township already have direct access to the Sandakan highway without the need for road/ bridge," he argued.

"To me, Sukau bridge will become a bridge to extinction, to both wildlife such as mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and people. The Kinabatangan Corridor of Life will become a corridor of death," Goossens reckoned.

He said he felt "completely distraught" after seeing the picture published in the Daily Express last week depicting clearance of some private forested land in Sukau to establish an office for the bridge contractor to store heavy machinery, meaning getting ready to construct the proposed bridge-road.

"Yet 17 years ago, the Kinabatangan was called 'Sabah's Gift to the Earth' by gazetting the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary to increase forest connectivity along the river, protect several charismatic species such as the orang-utan, the elephant and the proboscis monkey which have over the years become iconic species that attract eco-tourists to the State," he said.

He said the Government endorsed Elephants and Orang-utan Action Plans 2012-2016 clearly stated that any process that would further fragment their habitats such as major highways and bridges must be prevented.

"This is why the proposed bridge and road in Sukau are directly conflicting with the content of those two policy statements," Goossens said.


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