KOTA KINABALU: NGOs and residents from more than 10 villages in the Penampang and Papar districts held a protest against the Papar dam project yesterday, with over 200 people converging in an effort to halt the controversial plan.
Led by grassroots movement Task Force Against Kaiduan Dam (Takad), the protesters also held a Catholic service and erected a cross at the site in Mondoringin, Papar.
The gathering was also attended by NGOs Save Papar River, Bersih 2.0 and Partners of Community Organisations in Sabah Trust.
The residents claim that the RM3 billion project is merely a rehash of the Kaiduan dam project proposed by the previous government which was scrapped after Pakatan Harapan took over.
Takad spokesman Diana Sipail said previous remarks by Sabah Infrastructure Development Minister Peter Anthony clearly indicate that the construction site will be in the same area.
Speaking to reporters, she said the government should consult the residents, including from the indigenous communities, and study the environmental and social impact reports before giving the project the green light.
“This is a new government and a new project, so they should do these things including having dialogues with the people,” she said, adding that the project would affect nine villages in the areas.
The dam itself would affect over 3,200 people, she claimed.
She also said the villagers would consider taking legal action if the government decided to continue with the project in its present form.
Jinus Gisain, 48, said he had walked for three hours from his village in Kampung Timpayasa, Penampang.
“I’m a farmer but our produce is only enough for our family. I depend on the river for a living as I sell most of the fish I catch,” the father of seven said.
He voiced concern that his village would be submerged if the dam is constructed.
“This place is dear to us. Even if they offer us compensation, my answer is no,” he added.
Jackly Likinsim, from Save Papar River, said his village in Kampung Bisuang, Papar, is downstream of the project and will be affected by floods and pollution from the construction.
“My village will see a drop in water supply because it is caught in the middle of the river where there are no springs,” he said.
The 36-year-old quantity surveyor also said a quarry and concrete mix plant would have to be built to complement the construction of the dam.
“The chemicals from the plant, coupled with excess from the quarry from crushing rocks, will affect the water quality.”
He said according to the previous social and environmental impact assessment on the Kaiduan dam project, about one million cubic meters of earthworks would take place.
“This would be about the same, or more, for a mega project like the Papar dam,” he said.
He urged the government to consider other means of improving water supply such as the suggestion to improve water catchment areas put forth by Universiti Malaysia Sabah geologist Felix Tongkul.
“The geologist has briefed Chief Minister Shafie Apdal. We hope he listens to him,” he said.
“We hope our last defender, God, will help us remind the government of its responsibilities.”