KOTA KINABALU: Nostalgic Penampang folk and history buffs will be relieved to know that the century-old rain trees in Kasigui, Penampang, about 10km from here, will not be chopped down as initially planned.
There was a campaign last December to stop a road expansion project from steamrolling over a little colonial-era trading post in Kasigui where there is a small marketplace, a coffeeshop and the five rain trees estimated to be between 80 and 100 years old.
A group of villagers also held a peaceful protest last January objecting to the felling of the trees.
Penampang MP Datuk Ewon Benedick said the Public Works Department (JKR) informed him during the Penampang district action committee meeting that the trees would be spared.
“I was told during the meeting this morning that the department’s current road widening plans will not involve the cutting down of the five rain trees,” he told reporters yesterday.
“This matter was discussed during the meeting and that was the explanation by JKR. I hope the decision stays,” added Ewon, who is also the Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Minister.
Before Penampang’s more modern and hip Donggongon town, which is the district’s administration centre, was built, Kasigui used to be the go-to “town” for people in the Kadazandusun heartland.
The tiny settlement’s name came from the native kasigui tree.
Based on a previous JKR notice, the trading post fell within a proposed road expansion linking Donggongon town and Jalan Panglima Banting junction along the Donggongon-Tambunan road.
District JKR engineer Nelliah Sitor was quoted by local paper the Daily Express yesterday as saying that the road expansion project was well underway but that the rain trees would be left untouched due to strong public objections.
She said JKR would, however, remove some trees along the Penampang bypass from Padimas to Kivatu, and gave her assurance that this fulfilled environmental requirements and standards.
The project, she said, would widen the road into a three-lane stretch that would cut through the congested Donggongon roundabout, especially during peak hours, to the road leading to Tambunan via a RM300mil flyover.
Its master plan has already forced the relocation of the Sigah landmark on the roundabout, she said, adding that nature must also give way in order for development to take place.
“The Land and Survey Department is in the midst of evaluation. A few homes and shops near Kasigui that are in the way have been served notices.
“We cannot please everyone. It’s either the shops or the trees. Now, the contractors have an agreement with the (Sabah) Environmental Protection Department not to chop down the kasigui rain trees,” Nelliah said.