KOTA KINABALU: A state leader from Parti Bersatu Bumiputera Malaysia wants the Sabah government to shelve the controversial Papar dam project and look for other alternatives to solve the long-term water and electricity needs of the state.
Penampang Bersatu division head Senator Datuk John Ambrose said there were many other ways to overcome the issues faced in Sabah besides spending billions of ringgit on a dam, damaging mother nature and taking away the livelihood of indigenous people who have been living in the affected areas for generations.
"I would like to urge the state government to reconsider going ahead with the construction of the dam, despite having claimed that the location of its construction has been moved completely into the Papar district.
"Regardless, there will still be indigenous folks affected by the project, taking away their heritage, livelihood and not to mention the destruction the project will bring to mother nature," he said in a statement here Sunday (July 7).
Ambrose also said that the state government had yet to reveal the exact "new location" of the dam as well as how many people would be involved and how they would be affected.
He noted that the state had yet to make known the feasibility report for the project as many were worried especially those people in Kaiduan, where the dam was initially proposed to be built.
"There will be endless sleepless nights for the people of Penampang as long as this issue is not resolved.
"Every day, I meet and get calls from worried folks in Penampang who are objecting to the construction of the dam," he said.
Ambrose said the state government should also take the advice of geologist Professor Dr Felix Tongkul of University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) who proposed that the area should be gazetted as a natural water catchment area.
"Don't cut down the trees, instead keep large forest reserves. That is free storage made by God," he said, adding that Penampang Bersatu is compiling a working paper on using the water catchment system proposed by Tongkul, which will be presented to the Sabah government.
Penampang Bersatu's Armada (youth) chief Ceasar Mandela Malakun urged the state government to handle the matter with sensitivity to the local indigenous stakeholders.
He said that it is worrying to see the major announcement made that the dam will proceed without publishing a proper feasibility study or consultation with the stakeholders.
"The State Government should be more transparent to the public; otherwise there might be resistance from the public,' he added.
The Parti Warisan Sabah-led state government has decided to proceed with the dam project, stating that it was for the long-term water needs of Sabah's west coast areas.