Proposed Sukau bridge will have impact on wildlife

 

By PAUL MU

SANDAKAN: European tourists have been flocking to the Kinabatangan River to see Sabah’s wildlife in its undisturbed natural habitat.

This is something unique to the European tourists as they do not have this kind of natural environment to see back home, according to the findings published by Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS).

Furthermore, Kinabatangan River has been positioned as the wilderness of Sabah in the international market, said Kinabatangan Corridor of Life Tourism Operators Association (KiTA) president, Alexander Yee.

Therefore, we should reconsider the proposal to build the Sukau bridge as this will change the landscape of the natural environment and it will no longer be an attraction to foreign tourists, he explained.

Moreover, he said the Kinabatangan River caters largely for the European market and our wilderness and wildlife have been the main reason why they come here.

The tourists would come here to see the wildlife such as the elephants, where they would trudge all the way to Sukau, Kampung Bilit, Batu Putih and further up.

However, when a bridge was built in Batu Putih about 20 years ago, the elephants no longer pass by there and they would turn back upon reaching that point, he noted.

And based on the proven example in Batu Putih, if they go ahead to build the bridge in Sukau, the elephants will trudge there, he warned.

“I have checked the site of the proposed bridge, and I could see it is also a high density of orang utan nests,” Alexander noted.

The proposed bridge will be linked to a highway connecting to Lahad Datu and the infrastructure has the potential to destroy the wildlife natural habitat, he said.

“There are proponents of the bridge, saying it will bring development to the village. We are not opposing development, but the area of the proposed site has been gazetted as a conservation area,” Alexander pointed out. The proponents also argued that the bridge is needed to speed up the transportation of patients from the village to Lahad Datu hospital.

Alexander hoped the proponents could find an alternative to build a hospital in Sukau at a much lesser cost than building the bridge which is estimated to cost around RM270 million.

“We welcome development but not in the gazetted area, and we are always ready to hold a dialogue with the genuine stakeholders. We should also mitigate and solve the flooding problem in the village,” he said.

He said KiTA is an association representing tour operators in Kinabatangan River where they have about 15-18 operators in the Lower Kinabatangan River but only nine of them joined the association.

KiTA was mooted by WWF in 2008 and formalised in 2009 to represent a proposed Kinabatangan management committee among the tour operators, he said, adding that any engagement that the stakeholders want to call, it must involve everyone.

For the task of conserving the area, he said it should be done by the government of the day, not the private sector as the area is too big for them to handle.

As members of KiTA, he said the tour operators would pay an annual fee of RM300 and a conservation level of RM5 collected from each of the visiting guests.

The annual fees and levy charges have been utilised to conduct honorary wildlife warden course, wildlife guide course and to set up the ESSCOM security post in Abai costing about RM280,000, he said.

The security post is to beef up the safety along the river and ensuring it is safe from intruders. And the people have also accepted curfew as part of the establishment along the river since the security post was set up, he noted.

 
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New Sabah Times