KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government has decided to go ahead with the Pan Borneo Highway project cutting through the biodiversity rich Tawai Forest Reserve in the central Telupid district.
Deputy Chief Minister III Datuk Shahelmey Yahya said the state Cabinet had made the decision after taking into account the various concerns raised by environmental groups.
The route through the forest reserve comprises Package 31 of the Pan Borneo Highway which involved building a 20.5km stretch from Sungai Baoto to Telupid.
“The Cabinet has agreed to maintain the proposal for the route through the Tawai Forest Reserve on Nov 10,” he said, when contacted on Thursday (Nov 23).
Shahelmey, who is also state works minister, said one of the justifications to maintain the plan to go through the reserve was that it would prevent negative social impacts to the local community as this will not encroach into villages throughout the route.
Besides that, he said the design of the selected route has been completed and ready to be implemented at any time.
“If a new route was selected, the time taken to redesign the plan will cause a delay in the package implementation and subsequently the whole of the Pan Borneo Highway project,” he said.
He added the cost to upgrade the road and construct new ones for the route have been finalised at the state and federal government levels.
Shahelmey said an alternative route will also incur significant costs including the abortive cost for the consultant which had been previously paid.
“A mitigation plan has already been taken into account to address effects on the environment and wildlife on the route which goes through the Tawai Forest Reserve in Telupid,” he said.
Conservationists had previously pushed for the government to use alternative routes for the project in the Telupid stretch to avoid cutting through the Tawai Forest Reserve.