By THE BORNEOTODAY TEAM
KOTA KINABALU: After having invested over RM84 million in various environmental and conservation efforts in Sabah, the Sime Darby Foundation (YSD) has warned against going ahead with the proposed Sukau road bridge project.
YSD chief executive officer, Yatela Zainal Abidin, said the controversial RM223 million road bridge can threaten wildlife in the area where the Borneon Pygmy elephants especially, are sighted.
Speaking at the opening of an international proboscis conservation workshop here Thursday she said some of the conservation efforts promoted and funded by YSD could be jeopardised by the road bridge approved by the federal government.
“We are gravely concerned about the negative impact of the project considering the recent poaching of two pygmy elephants in Sabah’s protected areas late last year,” she pointed out.
“It not only threatens an area which is already suffering from consequences of rapid human activity but I am also made to understand that it contravenes state policies that stipulate a cessation in the construction of major infrastructure that could cause further fragmentation in the lower Kinabatangan.”
The road bridge, under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, is expected to connect the western river bank to the Sukau village on the east and the road would connect Sukau to Litang and Tomanggong areas, which would benefit some 1,000 villagers.
The project has drawn heavy criticism from non-governmental organisations and environmentalists, claiming it will interrupt the already sensitive ecology in the region and is in the middle of high elephant traffic.
It has also been argued that the road would provide convenient access and escape for poachers and spawn illegal hunting activities in the area.
Yatela also urged the State Government to release the federal funding it received last year for the conservation of the Borneo Rhino using artificial reproductive technology.
She argued that the Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) which had been working on rhino conservation all these years to ensure the continuity of the good work being conducted to conserve the species, which was on the brink of extinction, needed the funds badly.
“This is important to ensure that our investment in the rhino all these years will not be in vain for the survival of this very important species,” she said.
She added that Yayasan Sime Darby had been supporting the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary for almost eight years and that it would cease its support this month.
YSD has channeled around two-thirds of the funds under its environmental pillar to Sabah since 2009 in various projects, more than any other state.