Malaysia: Tawau Hills Park trees to be replaced by geothermal plant

Ruben Sario The Star 25 Sep 13;

KOTA KINABALU: Logging has been allowed at 150ha of the pristine Tawau Hills Park, which is about the size of Penang island, to make way for the nation’s first geothermal power plant.

Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan said the clearing and extraction of 1,639 logs was for the project site located in Sabah’s east coast.

They were also meant for the drilling of seven thermal wells in the area, he added.

He said that the logs were also extracted for the construction of roads and laying of pipes involving an area of some 40km.

However, he said that the logs had been sold at a loss as the extraction cost was RM475 per cubic metre while they were sold for just RM420 per cubic metre.

“Timber prices are at a historical low since 2002,” Mannan said in responding to Sabah DAP’s claims of illegal logging operations at the geothermal power plant project site.

Mannan said that the state had received some RM340,000 in royalties from the timber extracted from the area.

Claims that logging at the park area was illegal and for profit were thus baseless and causing unnecessary public alarm, he said.

He said that Tawau forestry officers had carried out a thorough investigation on claims of illegal logging at the 27,972ha park, that serves as the main water catchment area for Tawau and nearby Semporna.

“The only source of logs from the Tawau Hills Park was the site which had been cleared for the RM500mil geothermal plant project,” he was quoted as saying in a local daily.

The 30mW geothermal plant is being built by Tawau Green Energy Sdn Bhd, which signed a 21-year power supply deal with Sabah Electrictity Sdn Bhd last year.

Tawau Hills Park was established in 1979 and has seven major rivers flowing through it.

The highest points in the conservation area are the 1,319m Gunung Magdelena and the 1,201m Gunung Lucia.