KOTA KINABALU 7 MARCH : The Federal-funded Sukau bridge based on the initial development design is more viable, environmentally sustainable and lucrative compared to a second option proposed by the Public Works Department (PWD) following concerns raised by NGOs and academica over the project.
Sukau Assemblyman Datuk Saddi Abdul Rahman said he favours the first option as it provides better connectivity and opens new and better routes benefiting many quarters, especially the villagers in Sukau.
"The funding for the Sukau bridge approved under the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP) involves RM75 million for the first phase and RM150 million for the second phase.
"This was supposed to kick off in January but it was put off following the voices of the NGOs that were concerned the project may jeopardise the population and survival of the elephants and other wildlife at the Lower Kinabatangan Sanctuary Wildlife (LKSW), which led to the proposed second option," he said.
Under the first phase, he said the RM75 million is to be spent to build a new bridge over a distance of 240 metres from Kg Sukau across the Kinabatangan River to Jalan Moresem as well as a building a new road over 2.60 kilometres starting from Km 41 at Jalan Sukau up to the bridge which is known the second bridge.
The second phase, he said, involves erecting a viaduct with a width of 1,000 metres which would look like a flyover across the elephant sanctuary area and another road to be built over a distance of 8.50 kilometres.
By implementing this first option, he assured that no LKSW land would be disturbed and no trees would be chopped to make way for the project except acquiring some private and people's lands.
He said constructing the viaduct would enable the elephants and other wildlife to move from one forested area to another under the structure (viaduct).
In light of this, Saddi said building the viaduct would have a huge potential for creating a new tourism product in Sukau to be known as a 'night safari' where tourists could see the movements of the wildlife and elephants at night and this new product may be the first ever for Sabah and even in the country.
On some eco-tourism operators' fear that building the Sukau bridge may jeopardise the population of the elephants and affect the industry, he said such claim was baseless as the new tourism product will further boost tourism industry in Kinabatangan and Sukau.
On possible poaching of wildlife, Saddi said illegal hunting would not happen as the viaduct that is to be built over Lot 3 of the LKSW may not attract poachers as it involves a small area and once completed, the project would be a busy main route for motorists, tourists and security forces.
On the second option proposed by the NGOs and Sabah Wildlife Department, Saddi said it would involve a total cost of almost RM300 million and situated near LKWS Lot 1 and Lot 2 near Kg Abai.
"Of the proposed funding, RM10 million will be spent on acquiring private lands belonging to the villagers, RM140 million to build the bridge spanning 76 metres and another RM145 million to build a road over 26 kilometres.
"Furthermore, poaching is likely to happen as Lot 1 and 2 comprise vast areas that expose wildlife to illegal hunters," he said.
He said he would push for the first option as it would bring more benefits to the local communities and, at the same time, sustain the population of the wildlife and boost the tourism industry.
Apart from the lower cost of building the Sukau bridge in the first option, Saddi said the Sukau bridge will become the main route for people coming from the West Coast heading to Sandakan, Lahad Datu, Semporna and Tawau in a shorter span of time.
"The first bridge of Sukau is situated at Batu Putih involving routes that start from Bukit Garam up to a roundabout of Kg Sukau and motorists who wish to go to the East Coast have the choice to pass through Batu Putih which involves longer distances and time to go to the East Coast.
"But if they choose the second bridge, once completed, by passing Kg Sukau, they could reach the other East Coast districts earlier by one hour. In fact, the distance between the first bridge at Batu Putih and the second bridge at Kg Sukau is only 42 kilometres which is not that far," he said.