‘Dam project will destroy lives and lands’

KOTA KINABALU: With the looming state election, thousands of families in Papar and Penampang are again voicing their objection to the construction of the Papar dam, which is meant to secure the state’s water supply for the next few decades.

Jackly Lasimin, who is representing the Save Papar River Committee from Papar, said authorities seemed to be ignoring the people’s protests, which would affect their support of political representative in Papar.

“It is bewildering that the leaders and authorities are not even willing to consider alternative methods. Why spend so much on a project that will destroy lives and damage our lands and the environment?” he asked.

Jackly said villagers had hoped for a dialogue with those in charge of the project, including political leaders, but their wait turned out to be in vain.

“There is also no clear explanation on the status of this project, its exact location and other details because we get a lot of contradicting information when we ask the different authorities, ” he added.

He urged caretaker Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal to listen to the rakyat’s plight and use the RM3bil meant for the project to develop rural parts of Sabah instead.

Diana Sipail of the Taskforce Against Kaiduan Dam (now called Papar Dam) from Penampang said they were disappointed with Shafie’s statement on Tuesday that the Papar Dam project would proceed if Warisan wins the election.

Prior to the 14th General Election in 2018, Warisan and its Pakatan Harapan partners had promised to scrap the project, including the Tanjung Aru Eco Development project (TAED).

Diana asked if a caretaker government had the right to announce any project and if yes, when the approval was given and by whom.

“We are also getting all sorts of inconsistent information on the Papar Dam. For example, some will tell us that it is still in the proposal stage, while others will tell us that it has been downsized and relocated, ” she said.

She also accused political leaders of refusing to consider alternatives that are environmentally sustainable and would not cause people their lives or land.

“We want our ancestral rights and lands to be protected and saved. We want our human rights to be respected. Why does the government seem adamant to deprive us of these rights?” Diana asked.

Environmentalist Harjinder Kler said on Facebook that the Papar Dam, TAED and the Balambangan silica mining proposal were strongly objected to and subsequently dropped during the Barisan Nasional era.

“Has the pandemic not taught us anything about protecting the environment?” she added.

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