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Pan Borneo a threat to Sabah’s wildlife
Published on: Monday, October 26, 2020
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Q & A panel session with filmmakers during the premiere.
Kota Kinabalu: Coalition Humans Habitats Highways (3H) fears that the Pan Borneo Highway is cutting through and fragmenting ecologically sensitive areas which include densely populated elephant forest reserves and affecting thousands of community dwellings.

 Thus, it seeks “wider discussions” on  many unanswered social and environmental impacts of the 2,000km Highway although its advocates hail it as a boost for the economies of Sabah, Brunei, Sarawak and Kalimantan    

 “Imagine being given two-weeks notice to forcefully vacate from a home of 30 years or staring at beautiful environments depleted and sapped before your eyes ,” it said, in a statement and cited stories of social distress and environmental degradation.

 It prompted the production of a documentary entitled “Our Road Our Say: Pan Borneo Highway Stories”.   

 To ensure plights and problems along all stretches of the super highways are captured, 3H used 14  community film makers divided into Team Papar, Team Kudat, Team Telupid, Team Rana, Team Kinabatangan and Team Kalabakan who could easily see what’s happening in their regions, in collaboration with  LEAP, according to the statement. 

Film poster for ‘Our Road Our Say: Pan Borneo Stories.

 

“The purpose of this documentary is to initiate an open discussion on the pros and cons for the public, policy makers and government officials on infrastructure development in Sabah by highlighting the pros and cons of the Pan Borneo Highway,” it said.         

3H premiered the screening of the documentary which was presented online and livestreamed for the public via Zoom and Facebook Live which drew more than 300 participants while the stream across Facebook reached more than 10,000.

“This was a night to appreciate the community film makers and to bring their efforts to fruition for the world to witness the results of their diligence, dedication which allowed the public to have a deeper awareness on the issues surrounding the livelihoods, habitats and surrounding ecology through the act of the film,” 3H said.

 With radio presenter host and emcee Amy Dangin upfront, it featured Sabran B Adari of Kg Batu Puteh who acknowledged convenience of improved roads as a benefit but of no use to villagers as the highway would cut into granted lands of oil palms in his area cutting out their incomes .

Suffering big is Papar’s Marciana Binti Peter who complained she could no longer maintain at least 70 acres of her paddy field in Kg Suok Rampazan because of the lack of water drainage from problematic culverts that have been built as a consequence of the Pan Borneo. 

 Whoever planned the Highway also didn’t seem to know that Telupid is a densely populated region for the Bornean Pygmy Elephant and proposed to cut the highway through the Tawai Protection Forest Reserve.   

An irked Telupid based Wesley Bin Widin, a Community Elephant Ranger Team, voiced his outright disapproval.

“Once the Pan Boneo Highway goes through Tawai, the wildlife in the area will be forced  to intrude into community settlements and destroy the crops grown by the community, causing human-animal conflict.”

Given the rising cases of human-animal conflicts, it appears insane to force the highway through Tawai Protection Forest Reserve which is practically an elephant sanctuary and that it is only common sense that road designers concede to an alternative route . Maz Jumail, primatologist from Danau Girang, agrees that communities deserve the benefits of development minus the adverse environmental and ecological impacts. 

 In an hour long post screening panel discussion, a question was posed to the livestream audience:  What is the most important  factor that should be considered in infrastructure development in Sabah? 

Once the Pan Borneo Highway goes through Tawai, Pygmy elephants will intrude into other settlements.

A poll showed 43pc chose Environmental Protection whilst another 41.2pc chose Community Development.

Some asked whether there were ways to fight the highway. Others stressed need to for better road maintenance than building new roads. 

 Coalition 3H comprises Forever Sabah, Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), Danau Girang Field Centre (DFFC), WWF Malaysia, Borneo Futures, Seratu Antai, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), Jaringan Orang Asli Sabah (JOAS), Pacos Trust and SAVE Rivers.      



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