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Sukau bridge not going ahead
Published on: Friday, April 21, 2017

Sandakan: The Sabah Government has decided that the proposed construction of the bridge across the Kinabatangan River at Sukau will not be going ahead.

The decision was announced by Datuk Sam Mannan (pic), Chief Conservator of Forests, during his speech at the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP) dinner held at the Royal Society in London, Wednesday.

"In making this decision, the Chief Minister of Sabah (Datuk Seri Musa Aman) has taken into consideration all the concerns and opinions expressed related to the bridge, including those from Yayasan Sime Darby, Nestle, scientists and NGO groups, and also the opinion of someone who knows the territory better than anybody else - Sir David Attenborough," Sam said in a statement, Thursday.

In early March, the Guardian UK published an article headlining Sir David Attenborough's concerns over the proposed bridge that would span 350 metres across the Kinabatangan River, threatening one of the last sanctuaries of the rare Bornean pygmy elephant.

"If I may say so, that headline broke the camel's back.

"It made us understand that the issue of a proposed bridge across a protected area for wildlife is now the number one environmental concern, not just in Sabah, but globally too, because of the extremely precarious situation of the rich wildlife therein.

"Now, I am pleased to say that balanced development has prevailed.

"We are not going ahead with the bridge," he said.

Prior to this, various calls have been made to the Sabah Government, including by State Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Pang Nyuk Ming, to re-evaluate the controversial RM223 million Sukau bridge that is on the migratory path of endangered Borneo pygmy elephants.

Pang said the State cannot ignore the implications of the project which were raised by local and international conservationists.

Pang, who spoke in his personal capacity, said the Kinabatangan area was internationally-renowned, and it was clear that the bridge would have a serious impact not only on elephant conservation but also on tourism in the future.

The proposed bridge would leave a severe blot on Sabah's unique eco-tourism attractions, he added.

"I believe the bridge, which is on the migratory path between forests, will definitely bring elephants and humans further into conflict.

"The State can ill-afford the negative publicity," he said after meeting Kinabatangan-based Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) Director Dr Benoit Goossens.

Dr Goossens had briefed him on the critical situation facing the elephants and other wildlife, including orang-utan, in the Kinabatangan conservation area.

"The scientific evidence is clear, the bridge will follow a route through the Sukau area which has the largest concentration of elephant movements.

"It will be very irresponsible of the authorities to knowingly brush off these facts," he said.

Pang appealed for a re-evaluation of the project. The project's environmental impact assessment (EIA) has yet to be approved.

The Kinabatangan Conservation Area is described as "Sabah's Gift to the Earth" and has been dubbed the "Corridor of Life".

Pang said Sabah was a gem in South-East Asia tourism because it has mountains, forests and the sea, and that many other places cannot rival it as an eco-tourism destination.

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