KOTA KINABALU – The environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the controversial Sukau bridge is expected to be approved within a few weeks despite vehement objections by conservationists.
Sukau assemblyman Datuk Saddi Abdul Rahman said the terms of reference for the project’s EIA had been approved by the state Environmental Protection Department.
This was supposed to have begun last year but was delayed pending the outcome of the EIA report and for the authorities to hear concerns from conservationists, NGOs and other groups, said Saddi.
He was quoted in a report in the Star Thursday that the Public Works Depart¬ment (PWD) has allowed the contractor to occupy the construction site from Jan 23.
He added that the contractor has rented and cleared a privately-owned land in the area for the site office and heavy equipment depot.
The RM223mil project will be carried out over two phases.
The first portion comprises a 100m long bridge spanning Sungai Kinaba¬tangan and the upgrading of existing roads near the Sukau township.
Saddi said that as part of the mitigation measures, the Government has approved the state Wildlife Depart¬ment’s proposal for the construction of a RM150mil viaduct within Lot 1.
“That will enable wildlife such as elephants to move unhindered along their migratory path,” he added.
He said as far as he is aware, the focus of concern among conservationists was the upgrading of an existing road cutting across Lot 1 or one of the segments making up the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary (LKWS) located about 2km from the bridge.
He said the bridge will connect five coastal villages with Sukau township where there is a health clinic and will cut travelling time to Sukau by about 20 to 25 minutes.
“We are concerned about our wildlife but we also cannot ignore the needs of people there,” Saddi was quoted saying.
Saddi said there have been at least 10 deaths among villagers of Kampung Tundun Buhangin on an island near Sukau as the settlement is two hours away from the township or Sandakan.
Wildlife research NGO Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goossens said on Monday that the road that will subsequently be built will cut off the last remaining uninhabi-ted route for elephants near Sukau.
“It will be a bridge to extinction and the death of our wildlife,” BorneoToday quoted him as saying.
In a Facebook posting Thursday, Goossens said the project will be a nightmare for wildlife in the area.
“Just imagine Lot 3 (not Lot 1) with a fly over… the other problem is the road…
“As soon as it is built, people will start settling down along the road from the bridge to the fly over and most likely after the fly over and lot 3.
“The end of the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary,” he pointed out.