Sabah minister taken to task for dam go-ahead

The proposed Papar Dam project has faced opposition from local residents.

KOTA KINABALU: A grassroots movement has voiced dismay over the state government’s green light for the proposed Papar Dam although the necessary environmental impact assessment reports had yet to be completed.

Diana Sipail of Takad (Task Force Against Kaiduan Dam) questioned why Sabah Infrastructure Development Minister Peter Anthony had announced the go-ahead when it was clear the community’s input had yet to be taken into consideration.

Diana Sipail of the Takad group wants answers from the Environment Protection Department.

“The EIA report needs to be looked at meticulously and transparently. We want the state Environment Protection Department to explain the issue. All stakeholders with interest should be involved in the EIA process but that is not the case now. The voice of the community has to be heard in coming to a decision,” she told FMT.

Yesterday, Anthony had said construction work would start next year and that the project was now at the design and survey phase.

He said the project (formerly known as Kaiduan Dam) would meet a growing demand for water in view of the increasing population in the surrounding areas particularly in the state capital and Penampang.

“The location has been finalised. But in any case, we are waiting for the environmental impact assessment report first,” he said.

NGOs and opposition leaders have objected to any dam being built on the Papar river. The areas proposed to be submerged are mainly native customary rights land.

Instead, the state government has been urged to consider building coastal reservoirs, which would cost less than a dam to hold the same volume of water, and be cheaper to maintain.

Lanash Thanda says the people voted for a change of attitude, not a change of name.

Sabah Environmental Protection Association president Lanash Thanda said Anthony’s statement was like hearing a repeat of statements by the previous government.

“The people voted for change, not just a change in name, but for a change of actions towards a clean Sabah and towards long lasting goals, one of which was listening to the people that voted for this change.

“The rakyat wanted sustainability, wanted corruption to be halted, wanted agencies responsible for development to be cleaned up from within,” she said.

She called for a strategic environmental assessment on managing water for the whole state, which should be done prior to the EIA.

The government should solve the problems by tackling the root cause.