Sunday October 7, 2012
Tourism federation official wants to know when Santubong repair will begin
By YU JI
KUCHING: Workers under the employment of the company that was illegally clearing state land in and around Mount Santubong initially told curious onlookers that they were chopping down the trees to build a “footpath”.
“That’s what they told some of the expatriates staying nearby and apparently what they also told enforcers at the scene,” Sarawak Tourism Federation environmental committee chairman Rahim Bugo told The Star yesterday.
“The people clearing the land said the were preparing the site for a footpath,” said Rahim, who lives nearby at the Santubong Suites, about 30km from the state capital.
He said there were three land clearings so far that locals like him have been able to photograph.
One is near Santubong Suites, another from behind the Damai Golf and Country Club outwards the sea and uphill along the slopes.
Another clearing circumvents the boundary of Damai Beach Resort, which is the oldest tourism facility in the area and is owned by Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC).
Rahim said clearing works stopped on Thursday, but that as late as yesterday morning, locals still sighted a lone excavator moving about at one of the sites.
According to him, of the three land clearings, the one near the golf course is the largest. Given the size of the destruction — there are passage roads carved by the side of the hill — Rahim said he believed work had been going on for months.
When reporters and photographers went to the site on Wednesday, workers said work had been going on for two weeks.
“In any case, we are happy that the state government has intercepted and put a stop to this destruction. Now, since there is no approval given for any project, we want to know when the repair and replanting will begin. We also want to know who will bear the cost,” said Rahim, who is the manager of Permai Rainforest Resort.
Asked of his opinion of the proposed cable car project, Rahim said he did not believe it would be economically sustainable.
He also claimed that several senior members of the state government shared his view that the cable car would not attract enough tourists to be self-sustaining.
On Friday, the Resource Planning and Environment Ministry confirmed that the land clearing for the proposed cable car project was neither a state government nor government-linked project.
Its Second Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said the illegal land clearing was by a “private sector” company.
Rahim said it was “a shame that someone” had managed to do so much damage to the Santubong peninsula before the cease and desist order was issued.
“This cable car project won’t be viable. We are an ecotourism destination, let’s not try to be like other destinations. We have our strengths and we should stick to it. We should be highlighting our treks and mountain biking trails.”
The federation, which represents the state’s tourism private sector, is meeting with Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg soon to further discuss the land destruction at Mount Santubong, which is one of the newest declared national park when it was gazetted about five years ago.