Conservationists in Sabah can celebrate now that a highly contentious project has been scrapped.
Caving in to pressure to keep Sabah clean and green, Chief Minister Musa Aman said the government had scrapped “once and for all” any bid to put up a coal-powered plant anywhere in Sabah in the interest of the environment.
Making the announcement after chairing the state Cabinet meeting today, he said both the federal and state governments have agreed to pursue alternative energy sources like natural gas to meet the state’s energy needs.
“On behalf of the state government and the people of Sabah, I wish to accord my heartfelt thanks to our Prime Minister (Najib Tun Razak) for not only being attentive to our power supply needs but also for his grave concern for our environment,” Musa said.
He added that Najib has told Tenaga Nasional Bhd and Petronas to come up with alternative clean energy fuels such as natural gas to replace the proposed 300MW coal-fired plant in Lahad Datu.
Najib, he said, understood that while there was a need to boost the state’s power supply, it could not be done at the expense of the people’s welfare and the environment.
“The prime minister understands that one of Sabah’s greatest assets is its natural attractions and still somewhat pristine environment.
“While Sabah needs to increase power supply to meet increasing development, the state cannot afford to put its natural environment at risk,” he added.
Protect the environment
Musa said that it was the paramount duty of a responsible government to give priority to protecting the environment and its people.
“We must protect the environment, especially when it is the biggest tourism draw,” he said, adding that the growth of eco-tourism depended how best the state kept its natural environment and not expose it to unnecessary risks.
“I know there have been certain objections to the proposed coal plant. Today is proof that such objections have not fallen on deaf ears,” he added.
A proposed coal-powered plant in Lahad Datu came under intense public criticism and a detailed environment impact assessment was rejected by the Department of Environment.
However, Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd, through its subsidiary Lahad Datu Energy Sdn Bhd, had made attempts to re-submit the report in the hope of starting construction of the plant in Tunku in Lahad Datu.
NGOs, including the Sabah Environment Protection Association (Sepa), had started campaigning more than two years ago to prevent the construction of such a plant. Consequently, the site of the plant was shifted three times due to bitter opposition from residents in the east coast
of the state.