KOTA KINABALU: Villagers in Sabah’s northern Kudat district want the state government to stop a mining and processing project for silica sand from happening at an idyllic beach near their villages.
Residents from the five villages, namely Kampung Bangau, Andab Bangau, Andab Darat, Kimihang, and Longgom Kecil, said they were concerned the project, run by a Chinese-owned company, would be detrimental to their beach, Pantai Bangau, as well as the surrounding environment.
Mohd Mazza Azat, a member of the action committee formed by villagers to object to the initiative, said many of the villagers, comprising mainly fishermen and farmers, depended on the beach and the sea for their main source of income.
He said the beach was also considered one of the tourist gems of Kudat, located some 130km from the Sabah capital, as it was considered a hidden beach.
“Pantai Bangau is one of the longest and most beautiful beaches in Sabah,” he said when we met at the site where villagers had gathered with placards to protest against the project.
“We are worried the project (which includes constructing a solar panel manufacturing plant) will turn the crystal-clear seas into murky waters, harming the flora and fauna in the area.”
He also claimed the company or the authorities never asked the residents of the five villages, numbering over 1,000 people, for their views on the project or on how it would impact their lives.
“Although the company was operating on private property, the project could potentially affect the public area surrounding it,” Mazza said.
As such, he called on the Sabah government to listen to their concerns and find an amicable solution to their plight.
He said the action committee had already submitted a letter to the Chief Minister’s Department (CMD) voicing their displeasure and objection towards the sand mining project last June 18.
He added that they were informed the CMD had taken note of their letter and had since, in turn, sent a letter to the Sabah Industrial Development Ministry on June 23, asking the latter to take the next course of action.
An online petition called “Save Bangau Beach Kudat” has also been launched on change.org to collect signatures from the public.
So far, over 6,800 people have signed the petition.
When contacted, Sabah Industrial Development Minister Datuk Dr Joachim Gunsalam briefly said his ministry would look into the matter.
It was previously reported that the silica sand processing and solar panel manufacturing plant, previously reported to cost RM2bil, would be built in Sikuati, Kudat.
It was also said that the project would create up to 2,000 jobs, with 80% of them going to people in the area.