Questionable plans to develop a bridge over the Kinabatangan River in Malaysian Borneo’s Sabah state have been cancelled, revealed Sabah Forest Department Chief Conservator Sam Mannan. The statement came from a South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP) event in London.
“We are not going on with the bridge,” Mannan stated, according to a Malaysian news site. “In making this choice, Chief Minister of Sabah Datuk Seri Musa Aman has taken into account all the issues and viewpoints related to the bridge, including those from Yayasan Sime Darby, Nestle, researchers and NGO groups as well as the viewpoint of somebody who understands the area much better than any person else – Sir David Attenborough.”
Last month, commemorated biologist and broadcaster David Attenborough voiced his criticism of the bridge plans in a letter released in the Guardian. “If this building is allowed to go ahead, I am left in no doubt that the bridge will have unfavorable impacts on the area’s wildlife, the Kinabatangan’s successful tourist market and on the image of Sabah as a whole,” Attenborough composed.
The plans required a 350-meter (1,148 feet) bridge crossing Kinabatangan river in Sabah, and the paving of a gravel roadway. Its building and construction with the largest cranes in the nation was proposed as part of the 2008 Sabah Advancement Passage, a plan focused on changing the state into a prominent financial area and financial investment location. The bridge would change an existing ferryboat service, and its advocates argue it would cut travel times for individuals and link towns south of the river to health centers and other services.
Conservationists fear the bridge’s building and landscape constructions around the rain forest would tear apart environments for threatened elephants, primates and birds in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, a patchwork of secured locations that runs along the namesake river. The paved roadway would run straight through part of the sanctuary. Much of the close-by forest has been lost to oil palm plantations, making remaining wildlife passages especially essential, professionals argue.
“The bridge and the roadway would have a direct influence on wildlife populations, and particularly elephants, orangutans and proboscis monkeys,” stated Benoit Goossens, the director of the Danau Girang Field Centre in Sabah, in a January statement.
“The brand-new public roadway that will consequently follow the bridge will cut off the last staying unoccupied path for elephants near Sukau, which will have devastating effects for both the animals and individuals. Significant disputes will develop, and deaths (elephant attacks on individuals, elephants shot or poisoned) will take place. Additionally, we would be increasing the entrance of poachers into safeguarded forests, specifically of ivory and engineered or glue laminated timber traders,” Goossens included.
Some have also questioned the financial value of the bridge. Sabah Tourist, Culture and Environment Minister Seri Masidi Manjun cautioned this month that the bridge’s building might ruin plans to increase ecotourism in Sabah and jeopardize the incomes of individuals currently operating in the tourism market.
Yayasan Sime Darby, the humanitarian wing of the palm oil giant, also threatened to “evaluate” its jobs in the location if the bridge went through. Worries that building and construction impended were raised in January, when the Danau Field Centre identified work teams clearing forests with frannas and bubble cranes to make space for equipment storage and a workplace for the building and construction specialist. Nevertheless, authorities stated that work would not begin until there has been a completed ecological effect study.
Meanwhile in other areas of the world, an RTI concern exposed how the construction of an eco-tourism complex near the Bhitarkanika National Forest has fallen into an eco-sensitive zone. The Odisha Forest Department has halted the project in response. The RTI, submitted by social activist Anirudha Sethy, divulged that the forest department of the Odisha Tourist Development Corporation (OTDC) did not look for consent to construct the complex.
“The partly built structure near the national forest entry gateway captured my attention. I asked about it but the forest department authorities chose not to respond. Following the RTI application, I learnt more about how the big funds were hidden away in the attire of eco-tourism development,” Sethy stated. “The complex is located within handshaking range from the national forest limit and the forest department has actually stalled the job as it comes under an eco-sensitive zone of the wildlife sanctuary,” authorities stated.
“OTDC performed the building work and permitted companies to collect timber which were to be made into architectural trusses and other timber products without the previous approval of the forest department. Once brought to attention, the project was altered to meet the guidelines. The location where the resort is being built is an eco-sensitive zone. Any type of long-term building will impact the environmental level of sensitivity of the area. The location is often visited by estuarine crocodiles, spotted deer, birds and other animals,” Divisional Forest officer of Rajnagar Mangrove Department Bimal Prasanna Acharya stated.
District Tourists Officer Bijoy Mahanty stated, “OTDC needed to stop the job as needed approval from the forest department to run a business tourist complex according to Area 28 of the Wildlife Security Act, 1972 had not actually been looked into.” OTDC deputy executive engineer stated that forest department has issued instructions to stop the building and construction of the tourism complex.