KOTA KINABALU: Sabah has given the nod for the reclamation of the state’s iconic Tanjung Aru beachfront.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor said the state government has agreed to a 15-year contract to mine and dredge sand for reclamation works, in a bid to widen the tourist hotspot.

He said although plans have yet to be proposed or confirmed on the Tanjung Aru development, the sand dredging contract was signed to allow for such works to begin first.

“We want to reclaim the beach, so we will propose the (beach development) plans for discussion in the (state) Cabinet.

“We will improve the beach and expand Prince Philip Park, if agreed by the Cabinet,” he told reporters after handing out cash aid to 36 victims whose homes were destroyed by the Dec 24 high tide phenomenon.

Tanjung Aru Eco Development (TAED) recently signed a contract with Handal Borneo Resources Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Handal Energy, for the extraction and sale of marine sea sand at the Sunken Barrier Shoal, Hayter Shoal and Bunbury Shoal, all located northwest of the city.

According to reports, 153 million cubic metres of sand will be mined for the reclamation effort as well as recreational beaches.

Visitors had previously expressed concern that the area was quickly becoming a wasteland, with TAED alleged to be doing little other than collecting parking fees in the area with not many amenities provided.

They accused TAED of merely cashing in on the popularity of the beach.

A proposed multibillion-ringgit tourism development plan was launched in 2016 by the then Barisan Nasional-led state government.

But the project was deemed controversial and subsequent state governments have yet to come out with clear plans for the area known for its spectacular sunsets.

Locals have been urging the state government to abandon the TAED upgrading and rehabilitation plans and give the public free access to the beach.

Since taking over the state government in 2020, Hajiji had pledged to downsize the initial plans for TAED.