Malaysia: ‘Go ahead and build the bridge’

The Star 8 Mar 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Some 500 villagers staged a peaceful protest against some conservationists’ campaign to stop the construction of a bridge across the Kinabatangan river.

The villagers want the authorities to go ahead with building the bridge from Sukau II to Jalan Morisem. However, the conservationists said the project in the eco-sensitive Kinabatangan area, which is part of the Heart of Borneo conservation area, could affect wildlife’s movement. The project involves Lot 3 of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.

The local community, comprising village heads, appealed to the conservationists, saying the bridge could ease their access across the river.

Spokesman Bahari Maya said without the RM69mil bridge, the villagers had to use boats all the time.

On Sunday, Bahari handed a letter of protest to the Wildlife Department in Kinabatangan district as well as to the police.

Last week, state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the Public Works Department would have an alternative plan after the conservationists’ concerns were highlighted.

Sukau assemblyman Datuk Saddi Abdul Rahman said the bridge project was supposed to kick off in January.

“But it was put off following objections from NGOs who were concerned that the project may jeopardise the population and survival of the elephants and other wildlife,” he said.

Under the first phase, he said, besides the bridge, there would also be a new road built from Jalan Sukau up to the bridge.

Saddi said a second phase would involve building a 1,000m-wide viaduct, which would look like a flyover across the elephant sanctuary area.

“There would also be another 8.5km road with it,” he added.

The viaduct, he said, could become a new tourism product in Sukau. “It will be for a night safari.

“The viaduct will enable wildlife to move from one forested area to another under the structure,” he said,

Saddi said no land within the sanctuary would be disturbed. “And, no tree would be chopped to make way,” he said.

However, he said there would be the acquiring of private land.

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