KOTA KINABALU: Trees at the once vibrant Tanjung Aru beach are being chopped down amid questions raised over the move by local authorities this past weekend.
Officials are saying that the trees were old but social media users questioned if the felling was done as a prelude to the hotly-debated Tanjung Aru Eco Development (TAED) project.
Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Jafry Arifin said the trees were deemed unhealthy and could pose safety risks to the public.
He said he obtained this information from Kota Kinabalu Mayor Noorliza Ag Alip.
“The felling of the trees was done after a study by the City Hall Landscape Department following an examination on their condition," he said.
“City Hall officials had to take this step to prevent any (unfortunate) incidents," Jafry said.
City Hall Landscaping Department director Rozie Khan explained that only three trees were identified as problematic for now, and two had already been cut down.
“These species, the casuarina or aru, are rotting,” he said, adding that this had nothing to do with land clearing.
In fact, he said, one of the three trees had already died and its branches kept falling.
As for the other two, one has dieback (a condition in which a plant begins to die from the tip of its leaves or roots backwards, due to disease or unfavourable environment) while the other was also showing signs of dieback as well as rotting at the top, he said.
“The final one will be taken down after Hari Raya Haji,” he added.
He also said that the department's tree inspection team has also identified several other trees with signs of disease and rot and will decide on a course of action soon.
Environmentalist S.M. Muthu said concerns from the public came about because of uncertainty over the multibillion-ringgit TAED project.
Many people are worried that if the project gets underway, they would lose a free leisure spot to enjoy with their friends and family.
The TAED project, covering some 340ha, was mooted by the then Barisan Nasional government before GE14.
The project was supposed to have seven hotels with 1,800 rooms, 5,000 apartment and condominium units, marinas and entertainment venues, and a 133ha golf course.
When Parti Warisan Sabah and its allies took over the state government after GE14, they decided to keep the project but scaled it down and made some alterations, despite saying earlier that they would scrap it if they won the election.
The project was also announced to be on again when Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) took over from Warisan last year but said it would be reduced in scope.
No details of the latest "scaling down" have been disclosed as yet.