KOTA KINABALU: More than 500 villagers from around Kaiduan in Papar gathered to protest the proposed construction of a RM2 billion dam in Papar River, which will see their lands and homes submerged under 200 metres of water.
Speaking to FMT today, organising chairman Michael Frederick said the villagers affected by the dam are concerned because Infrastructure Development Minister Peter Anthony did not even bother to canvas the opinion of locals before announcing the project to the public.
“This new dam that Anthony has proposed is even worse than the previous Kaiduan Dam, even if it is smaller in size.
“The same river is affected and, because of its location, more people will have to be relocated,” he said.
Frederick, who is also the president of an NGO called Pertubuhan Angkatan Gabungan Rakyat Asli Sabah (Agaras), pointed out that at least the Kaiduan Dam proposed by the previous state government was done properly.
He said the state government then took more than 10 years to conduct studies to identify the best possible location, prepared the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report and had several dialogues with affected villagers.
The Kaiduan Dam, he said, was supposed to be built between two hills in the upstream side of the Papar River, which means the structure would be stronger and could accommodate a higher volume of water.
“Anthony’s dam will be on an open land, destroying the scenic Kaiduan village with almost the same cost of the Kaiduan Dam but with a lesser volume of water.
“If the Penampang people are against the Kaiduan Dam for environmental and humane reasons, then the same thing is true for us in Papar,” he said.
Frederick said compared to the area in Penampang where the Kaiduan Dam was supposed to be built, the new Papar Dam will affect a lot more people because of its proximity to Papar town.
He condemned Anthony for rushing the dam without providing all the necessary details such as the EIA report, proper studies and, more importantly, the holding of dialogues with the affected people in the area.
“He has not done any studies yet but already announced that construction could begin before the year is out. What is this madness?”
He also called upon those in the Penampang district who vehemently protested against the Kaiduan Dam to contact their own leaders there as the dam, if it is built, will still affect them and cause them to be relocated.
Rather than building dams, Frederick said the state government should consider building more water treatment plants or study other ways to provide water to the people without destroying the environment and the people’s lives.
Although Chief Minister Shafie Apdal has not revealed the exact location of the proposed Papar Dam, Anthony, who visited the area on Aug 2, pinpointed a shallow part of the river as the ideal place for the dam.
Shafie said the state government had decided to change the location of the dam to Papar because Penampang people and leaders were against it and the new dam would not affect the district.
However, the new project did not go down well with the grassroots in Penampang as they see the Papar Dam as an effort by the government to rebrand the Kaiduan Dam.
Taskforce Against Kaiduan Dam (Takad) spokesperson Diana Sipail even went so far as to say that the state government has reneged on its election promise to scrap the Kaiduan Dam.
“It will still be built on the same river and the same villagers will be affected. The only difference is the name has been changed from Kaiduan Dam to Papar Dam,” she said.