KOTA KINABALU: A grassroots movement is demanding that the new Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan)-led state government make good on its promise to scrap the proposed Kaiduan Dam.
Task Force Against Kaiduan Dam (TAKaD) spokesperson Mary Giun told FMT that villagers in the affected areas wanted Chief Minister Shafie Apdal to remember his party’s assurance that the controversial project would be replaced with a more sustainable way of providing water to the growing population in the west coast districts.
The proposed project will be able to store as much as 175 million cubic metres of water, ensuring water supply to Kota Kinabalu, Tuaran, Penampang, Putatan and other nearby districts for the next 30 years.
It involves submerging a 5.3 sq km area, which will affect more than 240 families living in the area.
Former state infrastructure development minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan had said the area was the most suitable for the dam and that the humanitarian effect would be minimal compared to other places.
The previous state administration had committed to providing resettled villagers with 0.3 acres of residential land for each household, resettlement allowance of RM10,000 per household, payment of “sogit” (customary fines) for burial grounds, as well as options to compensate for the loss of land, including crops and buildings.
On top of that, each household would receive five acres of agricultural land and a RM500 monthly allowance for the next three years.
Nevertheless, Giun said the villagers refused to be uprooted from their homes and would continue to fight for their rights.
“Some of the affected villagers attended a recent dialogue with Moyog assemblyman Jenifer Lasimbang to assert their desire to stay put in their villages.
“We insist there are other ways of addressing future water problems, all with much less effect on the environment and more importantly, the people,” she said.
She said one possible solution was to build coastal reservoirs, which is cheaper than building a dam for the same volume of water and costs less to maintain.
Such reservoirs would be sustainable and have minimal negative impacts on the ecosystem, she said, adding that they would not involve flooding a large area of land or the relocation of residents.
Meanwhile, state water department director Wilis Ansoi told FMT that the Kaiduan Dam project was still in the proposal phase with no firm decision on whether it would be built or not.
“We are just waiting for instructions from the top authorities,” he said.
When asked about the matter, new Infrastructure Development Minister Peter Anthony said he would only respond to the question when he is ready.
“This is a question for another day. I will respond to it soon,” he said.
Pairin had said the dam was necessary for the sake of Sabah’s one million residents and would offset future water shortage problems which are expected to occur by 2025.
He said the government could not afford to bow to pressure from 240 families when the lives of a million were at stake.