Malaysia: Conservationists against second bridge over Segama River

RUBEN SARIO The Star 17 Jan 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Conservatio­nists fear that a second bridge over the Segama River in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary will cause further harm to the critically endangered animals there.

Indications of the pending construction of another bridge near Sukau include some privately-owned forested land being cleared, for what researchers believe is a site for the construction office and heavy equipment depot.

Kinabatangan was made Sabah’s Gift to the Earth 17 years ago and in 2005, the sanctuary was created to increase forest connectivity along the Kinabatangan River, said Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goossens.

“It was also to protect several charismatic species such as the orang utan, the elephant and the proboscis monkey, some of them becoming iconic species attracting eco-tourists to the state,” he said.

The Danau Girang Field Centre conducts research and training on tropical biodiversity. It is managed by Cardiff University and Sabah Wildlife Department.

Dr Benoit said the Elephant and Orangutan State Action Plans 2012-16 clearly states that any process that will further fragment the habitat of elephant and orang utan po­pulation such as highways and bridges must be prevented.

“For the past 12 months, we have clearly demonstrated with scientific facts and data that the bridge and the road would have a direct impact on wildlife populations, especially elephants, orang utan and proboscis monkeys,” he said.

The new road that would subsequently follow the bridge will cut off the last remaining uninhabited route for elephants near Sukau, which will have catastrophic consequences for both the animals and the people, added Goossens.

He said the construction of the road and bridge would lead to major human-wildlife conflicts and deaths such as elephant attacks on people and elephants shot or poisoned.

“Moreover, it will be easier for poachers to enter protected forests in search of ivory,” he said.

Sukau State Assemblyman Datuk Saddi Abdul Rahman said the RM69mil bridge and road project would include the construction of a 1,000m wide viaduct to enable wildlife to move from one area to ano­ther under the structure.


Conservationists: New project will harm Sabah's protected animals
RUBEN SARIO The Star 16 Jan 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Conservationists fear that a second bridge over the Segama River in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary will cause further harm to critically endangered animals there.

Indications are that construction of another bridge and road is under way near Sukau with some privately owned forested land being cleared for what researchers believe are the construction office and heavy equipment depot site.

Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goossens said he is distraught over the latest development.

He said the Kinabatangan was declared Sabah’s “Gift to the Earth” 17 years ago and the sanctuary was created in 2005 to increase forest connectivity along the Kinabatangan River.

“It was also to protect several species, such as the orang utan, the elephant and the proboscis monkey, and some of them have become iconic for attracting eco-tourists to the state,” Dr Goossens said.

He said the 2012-2016 action plan supported by the state government clearly state that any process that will further fragment the habitat of elephant and orang utan populations such as highways and bridges must be prevented.

“Therefore, the proposed bridge and road in Sukau are directly conflicting with the content of those two policy documents,” Dr Goossens said.

“For the past 12 months, we have clearly demonstrated with scientific facts and data that the bridge and the road will have a direct impact on wildlife populations," he said.

“The new road and the bridge will cut off the last remaining uninhabited route for elephants near Sukau, which will have catastrophic consequences for both the animals and the people,” Dr Goossens said.

He also said that the road and bridge will make it easier for poachers to enter protected forests, especially those in search of ivory.

“We just lost three bull elephants to poachers. Can we decently increase the pressure on the elephant population in Sabah?” he said.

Sukau assemblyman Datuk Saddi Abdul Rahman said the RM69mil bridge and road project will include the construction of a 1km-wide viaduct to enable wildlife to move from one area to another under the structure.



Controversial project set to get EIA nod
The Star 19 Jan 17;

KOTA KINABALU: The construction of a bridge that conservationists fear will further harm endangered wildlife in Kinabatangan is set to receive the green light.

The terms of reference for the project’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) has been approved by the state Environmental Protection Department, said Sukau assemblyman Datuk Saddi Abdul Rahman.

“We expect the EIA to be approved in a few weeks,” he said recently, adding that the RM223mil project will be carried out over two phases.

The first portion comprises a 100m long bridge spanning Sungai Kinaba­tangan and the upgrading of existing roads near the Sukau township.

This was supposed to have begun last year but was delayed pending the outcome of the EIA report and for the authorities to hear concerns from conservationists, NGOs and other groups, added Saddi.

He said the Public Works Depart­ment (PWD) has allowed the contractor to occupy the construction site from Jan 23.

He added that the contractor has rented and cleared a privately-owned land in the area for the site office and heavy equipment depot.

He said as far as he is aware, the focus of concern among conservationists was the upgrading of an existing road cutting across Lot 1 or one of the segments making up the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary (LKWS) located about 2km from the bridge.

Saddi said that as part of the mitigation measures, the Government has approved the state Wildlife Depart­ment’s proposal for the construction of a RM150mil viaduct within Lot 1.

“That will enable wildlife such as elephants to move unhindered along their migratory path,” he added.

He said the bridge will connect five coastal villages with Sukau township where there is a health clinic.

Saddi said there have been at least 10 deaths among villagers of Kam­pung Tundun Buhangin on an island near Sukau as the settlement is two hours away from the township or Sandakan.

Sickly and even pregnant women from the village experiencing complications have died on the way to Sandakan or to Sukau to seek treatment.

The bridge will cut travelling time to Sukau by about 20 to 25 minutes, he added.

“We are concerned about our wildlife but we also cannot ignore the needs of people there,” said Saddi.

Wildlife research NGO Danau Gi­­rang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goossens said on Monday that the road that will subsequently be built will cut off the last remaining uninhabi­ted route for elephants near Sukau.

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