Ulu Papar communities who have spent over seven years justifying the need to save their ancestral lands are upset that they have been put through emotional stress for the Kaiduan Dam project which they claim has serious transparency issues.
Grassroots movement Task Force Against Kaiduan Dam (TAKaD) said from the time the project to meet the west coast of Sabah’s water needs was proposed, the authorities in particular Sabah Water Department had not been sincere in providing answers such as to concerns over Non-Revenue Water (NRW) that stands at 55.1 per cent as of last year.
Reacting to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) multi-million ringgit haul in cash, jewellery, luxury cars and other valuables from the two top officers at the Water Department, TAKaD spokesperson Mary Giun said the dam project had always been shrouded in controversy and should now be cancelled.
"Villagers in Ulu Papar are angry and disappointed as these are the two individuals who are partly responsible for planning Kaiduan Dam.
"Communities in Ulu Papar have spent so much energy and time to protect natural resources and traditional heritage sites in Ulu Papar yet everyday we face the threat of projects that are planned without solving existing problems such as leaking pipes," she lamented.
She said TAKaD had steadfastly maintained that forest and river resources should not be destroyed for projects such as dams, and advocated for the efficient protection of the environment "but the government has continued to take a different view".
"We strongly believe these individuals who are implicated in the recent haul by MACC have a reason to benefit from the construction of the dam, judging from their lack of interest in engaging with communities and civil society," she said in a statement, today.
Mary said the Water Department and the Sabah Infrastructure Development Ministry had continued to justify the need to construct Kaiduan Dam despite critical water supply problems in areas that would not even benefit from the dam, which is to be built in the Crocker Range known for its biodiversity and traditional community lands.
"TAKaD congratulates the MACC for uncovering the case; it is now time for the government to bin the project as there is no credibility left in pushing for it.
"All of that misappropriated money and value in luxury items could have been used to reduce NRW and better manage the supply of water including to communities in the interior who still do not have reliable and safe access to water," she said.
What Sabah needed, she opined, was a major action plan to manage its water resources in a systematic manner.
"Communities who live in watersheds must also be roped in for the traditional knowledge we have in managing water resources.
"The public also needs to be more aware that they need to be mindful when using water, while the commercial sector also needs to put in policies for efficient use of water." Mary added.