Thousands of locals would like to see a new bridge built over the Kinabatangan River. -- Photo courtesy of Trek Earth
SUKAU 13 MARCH : International based wildlife and environmental NGOs should return home and tackle the environmental issues happening in their respective countries to save the world from further destruction.
Urban Well-being, Housing and Local Government Minister, Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan said these NGOs should pressure their respective governments that have been destroying the forests and environment for hundreds of years, to replant the trees in their countries.
“I am demanding these NGOs who have based themselves in Sabah to go home and make sure their own countries carry out replanting (of trees) as an effort to save the world and ensure no more carbon dioxide is released from their industries that are polluting the surroundings and environment,” Rahman remarked Sunday. He did not name the NGOs that he was referring to.
One of the NGOs, Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) Director Dr Benoit Goossens was recently reported as saying it is critical that no more lands are lost through disordered land development as there is already too much fragmenting of forests in Sabah.
Bahri presenting the memorandum to Kamarlin, third from left, while witnessed by Rahman and Saddi, both partially hidden at the back row, together with other senior officials.
Environmentalists fear that the new infrastructure would could inflict lasting damage on the local ecology, including a sanctuary for resident wild pygmy elephants. Rahman described the construction of the Sukau bridge project, as well as a road in the region, is all about the government’s responsibility of serving the people and bringing development as pledged.
“These western-based NGOs do not understand the significance of the project that can help alleviate the poverty level and living conditions as well as standards of the rural communities here,” he said after launching the Sukau New Township Square and Tamu ground at Kg. Sukau here Sunday.
“They should look at what has happened, and is still happening in their own backyards before poking their noses in other peoples’ affairs.”
The road and the bridge project will go on despite the objections of the NGOs.
The square and Tamu ground was built at a cost of almost RM2 million given by the State government by the Sabah Housing and Town Planning Authority (LPPB). It is the second landmark at the new township after the soon-to-be completed Tun Juhar Mosque.
At the event, Rahman also witnessed the handing over of a memorandum which contained reasons for calling on the Sukau bridge project to be implemented, from a community leader of Sukau Bahri Omar representing the villagers here, to Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Kamarlin Ombi.
A trip to Sukau is never complete if one does not come across a herd of pygmy elephants.
“As a responsible government, it is imperative for us to ensure that the people receive and enjoy development which also need lands and these lands have flora and fauna as well as the wildlife animals.
“We try to mitigate…like what Saddi has pointed out the concern is on the elephants, then by all means we will give the way to elephants as well.
“But to deny this development (Sukau bridge) to the people here, then I think these Western NGOs are being too much and have gone overboard,” Rahman added.
Also present were Sukau assemblyman cum Rural Corporation Development (KPD) Chairman Datuk Saddi Abdul Rahman, SHDTA Chairman Datuk Ahmad Bujang, Local Government and Housing Assistant Minister Datuk Zakaria Mohd Edris, Rural Development Assistant Minister Datuk Nilwan Kabang and other senior officials.
He said he also supported Saddi in his fight against the Western-based NGOs and alleged they may have a hidden agenda.
Rahman said when he proposed for a dam to be built in Kota Belud that would resolve the water woes in the district as well as contribute to the irrigation needs there and generating hydro power, the same groups also objected.
Tourism has brought good money to the region, but are the villagers really benefitting from this sector, or is it the rich towkays from other districts who are the main benefitors.
For instance, he said, Sabah under Musa’s leadership, had directed for replanting of timber trees at areas that have been logged.
The planned bridge will connect 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. The new paved road will in turn connect Sukau village to Litang and Tomanggong, over 40 kilometers away to the southeast.
The coastal villagers in Mukim Litang stay in five isolated and remote villages - Kg Litang, Kg Sri Ganda, Kg Tundun Bohangin, Kg Tidong and Kg 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.
"If they go to Sandakan using a 40hp boat, then they would reach their destination in four hours' time.
But some have died on the way, and women have given birth in boats after failing to get medical attention on time," said Saddi, the local lawmaker.