Civil society groups’ cheer to cancellation of Sukau bridge project



KOTA KINABALU: Civil society groups involved in objecting to the controversial proposed RM223 million Sukau bridge over the past year has praised the Sabah government for cancelling the project.

Save Kinabatangan – formed last year as a campaign involving several organisations – also expressed gratitude to Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman for making the difficult decision to scrap the bridge, which studies show would have further fragmented the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary and the surrounding forests.

Save Kinabatangan which includes Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), Hutan, Kinabatangan-Corridor of Life Tourism Operators Association (KiTA), Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), Living Landscape Alliance (LiLA), Sabah Environmental Protection Association (SEPA), Sabah Environmental Trust (SET) and WWF-Malaysia (Sabah office), also said it will issue a more detailed statement in the near future.

“We wish to wholeheartedly support the people of Sukau and the other Kinabatangan communities in working towards a regional vision. This way, people and wildlife, and the oil palm and tourism sectors, can come together to build a mutually beneficial future,” said Save Kinabatangan in a statement on Friday.

The decision was announced by chief conservator of forests Datuk Sam Mannan during his speech at the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership dinner held at the Royal Society in London.

“In making this decision, Chief Minister of Sabah Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman has taken into consideration all the concerns and opinions expressed, related to the bridge, including those from Yayasan Sime Darby, Nestlé, scientists and NGO groups and also the opinion of someone who knows the territory better than anybody else – Sir David Attenborough,” Mannan said.

In March, the Guardian newspaper published an article highlighting Sir David Attenborough’s concerns over the proposed bridge that would span 350 metres across the Kinabatangan River, threatening one of the last sanctuaries of the rare Bornean pygmy elephant.

“If I may say so, that headline broke the camel’s back,” Mannan said.

“It made us understand that the issue of a proposed bridge across a protected area for wildlife is now the number one environmental concern not just in Sabah, but globally too, because of the extremely precarious situation of the rich wildlife therein.”

“The Chief Minister of Sabah has taken everyone’s views into consideration – including Sir Attenborough – before deciding on this very important issue, and I am pleased to say that balanced development has prevailed,” Mannan said adding that Musa had permitted him to disclose the decision at the gathering.

“We are not going ahead with the bridge,” he said.

The planned bridge would have connected the western bank of the Kinabatangan River to Sukau village, replacing the current ferry, which runs between Sukau and a gravel road built by an oil palm company.

A new paved road would in turn have connected Sukau village to Litang and Tomanggong, over 40 kilometres away to the southeast.

The coastal villagers in Mukim Litang stay in five isolated and remote villages – Kampung Litang, Kampung Sri Ganda, Kampung Tundun Bohangin, Kampung Tidong and Kampung Dagat; they have to commute by boats to go to Sandakan Hospital that would take about a day to reach and have to endure high transportation costs.

New Sabah Times