KOTA KINABALU: A new RM400mil road that will link Malaysia's poorest district of Tongod to Sabah's interior town of Keningau will help in hastening the socio-economic development of the people.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin said that a new federally-funded road under the 12th Malaysia Plan would cut the distance between Tongod and Keningau from the current 315km to 200km.
"This will allow the people to travel directly to Keningau and more people coming to visit the area, which will help improve the local economy," Bung said at the groundbreaking ceremony for the road project in Tongod on Saturday (May 28).
Bung, who is also state Works Minister, said that the road, once completed in 2024, would also open up the area to more economic activities, including developing its rural tourism potential.
Tongod, which sits in central Sabah along the Crocker Range that divides the east and west coast of the state, is the home to Imbak Canyon and has many interesting areas including waterfalls that could be tapped for tourism, he said.
He said with the new road from Keningau, more visitors would head into the area giving the potential for rural and eco-tourism activities, as their accessibility was only from Telupid and Sandakan.
Tongod is the largest Sabah district with an area of 10,054 sq km with a population of about 42,000 people, who are mainly ethnic Sungai farmers.
The district has the highest poverty rate in the country at 80.6% according to census, and many of the villagers remain cut off as the only means of transport was by boats.
Bung said that it was important for people to develop their land for cash crops and other agricultural crops in an effort to increase their income.
He said the government has been putting various projects in place to uplift the standard of living of the people, as well as new comprehensive plans, were also ongoing.
These included rural water and electricity supply projects, he said at the launching of the project which also included a Hari Raya and Pesta Kaamatan celebration.