KOTA KINABALU: About 50 people claiming to be residents of Papar district, south of here, gathered at the Papar MP’s office today to voice their support for the proposed Papar Dam.
Speaking on behalf of the group, former Kawang community development leader Juil Nuantin said the dam, which was first proposed by the previous BN government, is needed to ensure water security in Sabah’s west coast.
“Papar residents face water problems every dry season. The water pressure is low and our plants experience sea water intrusion,” he told reporters.
The RM2 billion Papar Dam has been proposed by the current state government after scrapping the Kaiduan Dam, which was supposed to be built along the same Papar River.
It prompted politicians and NGOs to mock it as a mere rebranding of the Kaiduan Dam.
The project has received criticism, especially from local communities that are directly affected by the project.
However, Nuantin said the residents hope the dam will solve their water problems.
He said the people in the district are also looking forward to better infrastructure that is expected to be built along with the dam.
He acknowledged that there are some who are against the project, especially in neighbouring Penampang, as it would submerge a large part of that district.
However, he said the people in Penampang may not have the same problems as Papar folk since Penampang has Babagon Dam that ensures stable water supply to the district.
“In Papar, the problem is big. Sometimes, our water is salty. The proposed dam is timely because we are projecting a huge increase in the population of the district in the next few years.
“This is not about politics. Those who came today are both government supporters and from the opposition.
“We are normal Papar residents. We don’t care which government is going to build this dam. We only want it done but it must be done right,” he said.
Nuantin said those who will be displaced must be properly compensated with housing and land.
“They deserve this because their homes would be destroyed along with their villages and ancestral grounds,” he said.
He said the people of Papar were excited at the prospect of getting better roads and a stable power supply as the government was expected to build a road leading to the dam and had promised that the dam would be able to generate power.
He believed that such mega projects were good for the district’s economy as they would provide jobs as well as business opportunities to residents.