Sukau Bridge Cancellation: Civil Society Thanks Musa, Sabah Govt

File photo of a group of elephants crossing a highway in Peninsular Malaysia. Similar conflicts will happen in Sukau area if the bridge/road is to be developed. – Photo credit & Copyright: Yeap Chin Aik/MNS

KOTA KINABALU: Civil society groups involved in the Sukau bridge story over the past year Friday thanked the Sabah State Government on the decision to not proceed with this project.

Save Kinabatangan – formed last year as a campaign involving several organisations also expressed gratitude to Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman for making the difficult decision to scrap the bridge, which studies show would have further fragmented the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary and the surrounding forests.

“We wish to wholeheartedly support the people of Sukau and the other Kinabatangan communities in working towards a regional vision,” Save Kinabatangan said in a statement Friday.

“This way, wildlife and people, and the oil palm and tourism sectors, can come together to build a mutually beneficial future.”

Sam Mannan announces in London, on behalf of the Sabah government, that the Sukau Bridge project has been scrapped.

A more detailed statement on this issue will be made in the near future, the statement added.

Save Kinabatangan includes Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), Hutan, Kinabatangan – Corridor of Life Tourism Operators Association (KiTA), Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), Living Landscape Alliance (LiLA), Sabah Environmental Protection Association (SEPA), Sabah Environmental Trust (SET) and WWF-Malaysia (Sabah office).

The decision to scrap the controversial bridge was announced by Chief Conservator of Forests, Sam Mannan during his speech at the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership dinner held at the Royal Society in London on Wednesday.

Sam was quoted as saying that Musa had taken into consideration all concerns and opinions related to the bridge in arriving at his decision.

The proposed Sukau bridge project received strong objections from local and international conservationists who said it would disrupt the migratory route of wildlife and negate wildlife conservation.

Juvenile proboscis monkey along the Kinabatangen river, one of the last strongholds for the population in Sabah. – Photo credit Rudi Delvaux

The Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary is described as “Sabah’s Gift to the Earth” and has been dubbed the “Corridor of Life”.

According to a recent report in the The Guardian, Sir David Attenborough and BBC wildlife presenter Steve Backshall had joined local conservationists in lobbying for the RM223mil bridge to be scrapped.

Sir David Attenborough

Attenborough’s argument is that the (bridge) plan will harm already embattled wildlife populations and create a new barrier for migrating Bornean elephants. Listed as endangered by the IUCN, they require large areas of habitat for foraging and many fear that the increasingly fragmented populations will lead to genetic problems.

“I have had many encounters with the magnificent and unique species with which your state is blessed,” Attenborough wrote in his letter to Musa. “If this construction is allowed to go ahead, I am left in no doubt that the bridge will have significant negative effects on the region’s wildlife, the Kinabatangan’s thriving tourism industry and on the image of Sabah as a whole.”

Attenborough in his letter also said: “I strongly believe that Borneo is one of the most unique and biodiverse places on this planet, and that the world’s remaining wild spaces provide more than ecological services and opportunities for economic development; they also provide deep spiritual nourishment for ourselves and future generations of Sabahans and visitors alike.”

In the earlier days when expressing opposition to the project, DGFC director, Dr Benoit Goossens, ssaid the problem is that the proposed road would cut off the last remaining uninhabited route for the diminishing Bornean Elephants near Sukau

“Major conflicts will arise, deaths (elephant attacks on people, elephants shot or poisoned) will occur. Moreover, we will increase easy penetration of poachers into protected forests, especially of ivory traders.

“We just lost three bull elephants from poaching. Can we decently increase the pressure on the elephant population in Sabah,” Dr Goossens had then said when reports came out that construction works was to be carried out soon.