KOTA KINABALU: Chief Minister Shafie Apdal has defended the state government’s decision to carry on with the Papar Dam project, saying Sabah needs ample water and power supply especially with more investors coming to the west coast.
Shafie also reiterated that the state government had not said it was cancelling the project.
Instead, he said, it had cancelled the Kaiduan Dam project, which was planned under the previous government, after protests from villagers.
The Papar Dam will be built on the same river as the proposed Kaiduan Dam project, which led to people mocking it as a bad public relations exercise as it was only a rebranding of the same project.
Shafie, who is also the Warisan president, said water for the Papar Dam would be sourced from the same river but the project would be built in Papar itself and not in Penampang.
“It is important that we secure ample water and power supply for the west coast. This dam will benefit not only Papar and Penampang but also Kota Kinabalu and the nearby districts.
“We have many interested investors wanting to come to these areas and we need enough water and power supply to cater to their demands,” he said after attending a Hari Raya open house organised by the infrastructure development ministry.
Shafie reminded Sabahans that when Bakun Dam was being built in Sarawak, activists successfully brought their case to the United Nations to protest.
However, he said Sarawakians are enjoying the benefits of the dam today, adding that the Sarawak government even managed to sell electricity to its neighbours.
He believed the Papar Dam project would not cause severe environmental impact or huge displacement of residents.
“I feel it is important for us to secure enough water and power supply. We cannot wait. Today, a few people may object to this plan but we are confident that in the future, thousands, if not millions, will protest because of insufficient water supply.
“In the future, it would take us a long time to carry out studies, prepare the EIA report and estimate the costs. All these cannot be done in a month or two,” he said.
Shafie who is also the finance minister, said the government had identified several other areas to build more dams, including the east coast and the interior.
He said Lahad Datu, for instance, had suitable rivers where dams could be built to help solve water and power supply problems in the district.
He did not give the number of dams the government was planning to build but said the projects should be carried out soon.
Shafie also said the state government was not dismissing coal as an alternative for power supply on the east coast.