Why the hurry to build Papar Dam, asks PBS

PBS vice-president Johnny Mositun (centre, in grey, behind children) visited the people of Kampung Kaiduan in Penampang, where the dam was initially to be sited.

KOTA KINABALU: A Sabah opposition leader has demanded that the state government produce proof that a detailed study has been completed before proceeding with construction of the controversial Papar Dam.

PBS vice-president Johnny Mositun questioned the state government’s haste in giving the green light for the RM3 billion mega dam.

“Why the desperation to build a dam in such a hurry?” he said here after hearing protests from Kaiduan villagers on the issue.

Mositun said he was backing the calls by three NGOs against the Papar Dam, namely the Task Force against Kaiduan Dam (Takad), Sabah Environmental Protection Association (Sepa) and Tanah Dahai.

These NGOs want the government to adhere to the rule of law and due process instead of bulldozing through the mega project.

Kaiduan, in neighbouring Penampang district, was the initial site earmarked by the previous BN government to build the dam project.

Mositun, a PBS division chief in Papar, was also left wondering about the actual location of the proposed dam, which he contended “kept changing from time to time”.

“How come every few months, the minister is announcing a new site?

“If I recall, four different locations have been mentioned so far, the latest being Mondoringin (in Papar),” he said, adding this had exacerbated the uncertainty among the people.

“This shouldn’t be the case. A serious and detailed study, which takes time and money, must be made each time a site for a dam is chosen. This includes an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report.”

He added the social impact and feedback from the ground also needs to be taken into account.

Sabah Infrastructure Development Minister Peter Anthony had previously announced that the dam would be built at a site adjacent to Kampung Mondoringin in Ulu Papar.

Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) deputy president Edward Dagul had also urged the state government to reveal the exact location of the proposed dam, saying people are in the dark as to its whereabouts.

Mositun claimed this latest site was close to the original but now-scrapped Kaiduan Dam site.

“Are we going to see a slight modification of the original Kaiduan Dam technical studies, EIA and design, with only a slight change in location?

“It looks like this government is actually presenting us with nothing more than the original Kaiduan Dam but in new packaging.”

From his own observations, Mositun said the area inundated would be the same as the original proposed Kaiduan Dam, adding the number of villages affected and people displaced would be about the same.

“But further down the river in Papar, more than 100 villages will be affected. Their concerns must be addressed,” he said.

Meanwhile, he also called out Warisan leaders, such as its deputy president Darell Leiking, who is the Penampang MP, and Terence Siambun, a former assemblyman in the Penampang parliamentary constituency, to state their stand.

“They had strongly objected to the original Kaiduan Dam proposal as opposition elected representatives but are strangely silent now that they are part of the government,” he said.

Mositun also accused Anthony of not being sincere after claiming to champion the interests of Papar.

He said Anthony had spent the whole year talking about the Papar Dam but had said nothing about addressing Papar’s long-standing requests for a second bridge and irrigation problems that had forced many padi farmers to stop planting.