KOTA KINABALU : Sabah Environmental Protection Association (SEPA), President Lanash Thanda expressed deep regret that the repeated warnings were not heeded by the quarry company and government agencies resulting in the incident on Saturday which saw boulders crashing down to the village under Kukusan Hill in Tawau.
“Since 2012, SEPA’s past President, Wong Tack had repeatedly highlighted this issue and went down to the ground with SEPA member, Gary Yap to check the situation of this quarry that was allowed to be carried out after the Kukusan Forest was downgraded from being a Class I Forest Reserve to Class II,” stated Lanash who was recently elected to the new committee for 2013.
SEPA had challenged the validity of the quarry, which damaged the environment of the Forest Reserve and endangered the community living at the foothill of the Reserve.
“We deeply regret seeing that once again the needs of development outweighed the wellbeing of not only the environment but also people living in the surrounding area,” said Lanash at a Press Conference held at the SEPA office in Kota Kinabalu.
In September 2012, the company Hap Seng who runs the quarry issued a statement that claimed that the quarry was compliant with the terms of approvals from the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) and the Department of Environment (DOE).
“If the company did comply, this shows that the standard requirement for carrying out quarrying was flawed as it resulted in injury of people in the surrounding area and now the government has said it would relocate all the people living within the area,” pointed out Lanash.
SEPA proposed that the quarry be closed for a thorough investigation which should look into two aspects aspect; firstly on the blasting that has been allowed within the Forest Reserve and secondly on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) particularly on environmental and safety standards that were approved.
“We need to ask if the company had taken into consideration the proximity of the Kampung Tanjung Batu Tengah (Besi Buruk), was this issue identified in the mitigating measures, and if not why not?” asked the SEPA President.
There have been many incidents that show that development has priority over the environment and the safety of people. Like many other issues that SEPA have highlighted over the years certain developments are accidents waiting to happen.
“It was very fortunate that this incident did not result in deaths of the residents of the village but we must learn from our mistakes and we have to move forward by having more stringent measures and standards,” concluded Lanash.