KOTA KINABALU: The move by the Environment Protection Department (EPD) in Sabah to unilaterally approve a massive aquaculture project is worrying seven non-governmental organisations here.

The NGOs want greater transparency and public participation in the evaluation of Envi­ronmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports as all projects ultimately affect the people.

They were responding to the EPD director’s recent statement that he was not obliged to refer any matters back to the EIA Review Panel before a final decision is made in approving an EIA.

Datuk Yabi Yangkat had cited Section 12D(1) of the Environment Protection Enactment 2002, which stipulates that the EPD director was empowered to approve an EIA report even if no Review Panel meeting was held.

The NGOs – Sabah Environmental Protection Association (Sepa), Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia (Joas), Borneo Rhino Alliance (Bora), Sabah Environmental Trust (SET), Save Open Spaces Kota Kinabalu (SOS KK) and Himpunan Hijau – believe EPD is moving backwards by interpreting the law so narrowly.

Sepa president Lanash Thanda said the role of the Review Panel could be considered obsolete, and the concept of public participation undermined.

“The recent statement means that NGO participation in the process is nothing more than a rubber stamping exercise.

“This is a breakdown of social and environmental safeguards as it allows for one authority to approve future EIAs without consultation,” Lanash said.

On Dec 19, EPD approved the EIA for a RM1.23bil shrimp aquaculture project in Pitas, despite an earlier rejection by the Review Panel that included SEPA and WWF-Malaysia.

The department also did not notify the panel members of its decision.

SET Chief Executive Officer Dr Rahimatsah Amat said the EPD’s Handbook on Environmental Impact Assessment in Sabah (2nd Edition) clearly mentions a public hearing and a review panel.

Rahimatsah, who claimed several activities had commenced in the last few years even while the Terms of Reference (TOR) were being discussed, added that this was a breach of section 7(1) of the Environmental Protection (Prescribed Activities) (EIA) Order 2005.

The seven are now seeking an appointment with the State Tourism, Culture and Environ­ment Ministry, under which EPD falls, to discuss procedures and issues related to the EIA process.

The group is also contemplating a public forum to create awareness on environmental issues and the EIA process.

“We are here to ensure that public interest is respected and protected.

“We do not have any other agenda,” Rahimatsah said.

 

Source: http://www.thestar.com.my/News/Nation/2015/02/22/NGOs-question-EPD-approval-Groups-want-greater-transparency-in-EIA-evaluation-of-Sabah-aquaculture-p/

Calls for more transparency on KB housing project

By Ezra Haganez
KOTA BELUD : A local activist has called on the authorities to explain if the proposed development of 2,000-unit public flat at Kg Pirasan near here has an approved EIA or Environment Impact Assesment, as earth-works started weeks ago.
Kanul Gindol, a political and human right activist, said he has been approached by concerned locals of what is going on at the site which happened to be close to the pristine Kadamaian River.

“As a concerned local citizen and in a position to observe, i am issuing this statement upon requests by my environment-concerned friends on the government’s proposed development of a 900-unit “peoples flat” near here.

“We believed this 900 units are part of the proposed 2,000 units Rumah Rakyat to be built here as announced by the Federal Government earlier last year,” Kanul said in a statement here today.
Kanul who is also chairman of Kelawat New Township Planning and Development Committee, said earth-moving and hill cuttings have started at the proposed site in Pirasan but many are asking if a transparent EIA has been approved for such development.
“Villagers in the vicinity also have raised concerned of future floodings if proper drainage are not to be thoroughly planned and carried out as had happenned in many incidences in Malaysia, particularly in Sabah.
“There are even claims that a “public consultation” with those affected in the vicinity had failed to be carried out. We call on the authorities to explain this so as to quash unnecessary rumours on the much-needed housing project,” he pointed out.
Kanul said everyone had welcomed development, more so for affordable houses like this one in Kota Belud. However, he said, stringent regulations must be followed.
“We wanted to believe that the Government especially the Federal Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry as well as the Kota Belud local authority would have looked into all the requirements so as not to burden the peoples and the state later.
“We call to attention the prevalent floods as soon as construction sites appeared in the vicinity. We are talking of preventing floods, and not managing them only later, which is a bad planning,” he further said.
The activist also claimed that many in Kota Belud are also very concerned by few other on-going projects here where good planning seemed not to have been put in place before carrying out these projects.
“One glaring example is the unnecessary tiling of pedestrian pavement that was put around the Kota Belud town recently. Why was the tiles on these pavements suddenly ordered to be taken out last week and replaced with another similar tiles?
“Isn’t it a waste of public fund? Another example is the upgrading of the town’s Padang, where initially they have put up fence at the wrong perimeter. The contractor was forced to realign the fencing for the site which would have not been the case if there were good planning,” he said.
“Some may claim that these issues are small things, but how could one trust someone or the authorities for bigger things when even in small things they failed?,” Kanul said.
Source:http://www.borneoherald.com/2015/02/calls-for-more-transparency-on-kb.html

Alienation of 650 acres in Lahad Datu to Felda void  rules court Villagers rightful land owners   Daily Express Newspaper Online  Sabah  Malaysia.

 

KOTA KINABALU: The High Court here has declared that the alienation of 650 acres at Tanjung Labian in Tungku, Lahad Datu to the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) is unconstitutional and therefore null and void.

Judicial Commissioner Datuk Douglas Primus, in his judgement on Friday, ordered Felda to pay damages to the villagers who were the successful applicants to the 650 acres.

Douglas declared that the Director of Lands and Surveys and the State Government of Sabah had acted unconstitutionally contrary to Articles 8 and 13 of the Federal Constitution in alienating to Felda the 650 acres which had been approved to the villagers in 1972.

He ruled that in alienating the land to Felda, the Director of Lands and Surveys had acted unlawfully.

On the issue of failing to enforce the agreement entered into by the State Government of Sabah and Felda to compensate the applicants by negotiation to purchase the land approved to the villagers, Douglas declared that the State Government of Sabah was in breach of fiduciary duty in failing to protect and safeguard the proprietary interest of the villagers in the land.

Felda, as a plaintiff, initiated the suit in 2011, applying to the High Court to evict the villagers from part of the land alienated to it, alleging trespassing by the villagers. The suit encompassed about 5,000 villagers from Tanjung Labian, Lok Buani, Tg Batu, Sungai Bilis and Tanagian.

The villagers in their defence denied trespassing and claimed native customary rights to the land and that part of the land was alienated to some of the villagers by the Department of Lands and Surveys following the approval of the State Government of Sabah in 1972.

The villagers as defendants also counter claimed against Felda, the Registrar of Titles, Assistant Collector of Land Revenues of Lahad Datu, the Director of Sabah Lands and Surveys and the State Government of Sabah seeking relief, including declarations and damages.

According to one of the four sued defendants, Asrafal Alin, a representative of the villagers, sometime in 1970, the native communities led by his late father KK Alian Bin Som had applied for three plots of land at Tanjung Labian.

In 1972, following the approval of the State Government, the Director of Lands and Surveys Sabah alienated and surveyed 650 acres to the applicants.

“However, the Department of Lands and Surveys did not proceed to issue the land titles to the successful applicants despite the lapse of time.

“Sometime in 1979, the State Government of Sabah had agreed to allow a Federal Government agency, Federal Land Development Authority or known as Felda to develop more than 200,000 acres including the land located in Lahad Datu at Tanjung Labian,” Asrafal said.

“Sometime in 1982 or 1983, Felda entered the land to carry out site clearing and oil palm planting activities and planted oil palm in the land alienated to the villagers at the location now known as Sahabat 22,” said Asrafal.

“I am very grateful for the decision of the High Court. It has been very demoralising and humiliating to me and my family, especially to the villagers who are the children of the applicants, that as the rightful owners and successors of the land, we were subject to such eviction proceedings by Felda.

“Worst still, my fellow villagers who were under employment in Felda were sacked by Felda because of their commitment to defend the land. We are also grateful to our lawyer Datuk Kong Hong Ming who has helped to defend the case against us on a pro bono basis,” said Asrafal.

Douglas, in his judgement, found that no evidence was adduced to show that the letters of offer were withdrawn or cancelled, and consequently, the letters of offer are valid and binding. He also found that the relevant authorities had acknowledged and accepted the proprietary interest of the applicants in the land.

Consequently, the contention that the applicants were in breach of the terms of the letters of offer had been waived and overtaken by events for the reason that Felda and the Sabah State Government had agreed to compensate the applicants by private treaty to purchase the said land. As a result, estoppel set in to bind the parties.

Douglas said that even until today, Felda has yet to negotiate with a view to purchase the said land from the successful applicants.

As to the saguhati (consolation) payment of RM32,500 allegedly paid by Felda, Douglas found that the evidence adduced was only an internal accounting statement which could not be proof that payment was made to every applicant. In any event, compensation must be paid to the applicants by negotiation to purchase the said land. Such saguhati payment did not have any legal consequence and did not amount to any compensation.

As to the other issues for determination, Douglas ruled that the applicants’ claim was not barred by the Limitation Ordinance or the Land Acquisition Ordinance and damages shall be assessed at the date of the judgement.

Felda as the plaintiff was represented by counsel Gani Zaleka, the defendants were represented by Datuk Kong Hong Ming, the Director of Lands and Surveys and State Government of Sabah by State counsel Mohammad Abdul Sani.

Caption: Some of the villagers outside the courtroom.

Source: http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/news.cfm?NewsID=97261

Dear Members,

Notice is hereby given to all members that the ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING of SABAH ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION ASSOSIATION will be held on Saturday, the 21st of March, 2015 at 2pm, Karamunsing Ballroom, 88300, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah to conduct the following businesses:

 

AGENDA:

  1. President to call the meeting.
  2. To confirm minutes of the AGM 2014.
  3. To confirm the amendments of Constitution.
  4. Report by the Secretary, activities and the success stories during the year 2014.
  5. Presentation of the account and the financial report by the Treasurer (2014).
  6. Motions for adoption (If any).
  7. Appointment of the Election Chairperson and election of the Office Bearers for Term 2015-2017.
  8. General Election.
  9. Incoming President Speech.
  10. Appointment of the Auditors and Trustee.

 

Please note:

  1. All nominations for the election of office bearers for 2015-2017 and motion (if any) shall be emailed to the Secretary at info@sepa.my before 4pm, on the 25th February 2015 or contact the above numbers. The nomination form can be downloaded here.
  2. Only members with updated memberships of the society are eligible to attend and participate in the meeting according to the laws of the society. No proxy attendance or voting will be allowed.

 

Download:

Nomination Election Form

 

Julia Hwong
Secretary
SABAH ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION ASSOCIATION

PRESS RELEASE: Destruction of Mangroves Continues in Pitas With Disregard for Sabah’s Laws

Kota Kinabalu, 11th January 2015: Sabah’s environmental laws which were put into place to safeguard the environment is being blatantly disregarded by the project proponents of the Pitas Shrimp Park which is also known as the Pitas Aquaculture Project. The project is a joint venture between Inno Fisheries Sdn Bhd which is under the Sabah Foundation and Sunlight Seafood (Sabah) Sdn Bhd.

“Environmental laws have been put into place as safeguards for the benefit and protection of all our futures and breaking these laws should be as serious as any other crime and not as something that can be ignored,” said Sabah Environmental Protection Association (SEPA) President Lanash Thanda.

According to the SEPA President the law is clear, they should be no development activities until the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is approved.

“As far as we are aware, this project has not had its EIA approved, is the project proponent above the law? This situation raises alarming questions with regards to other development projects. Does this mean that projects that are government linked do not have to follow the law? What has happened in this situation makes a mockery of the hard work and legal procedures that have been put in place for Sabah. Does this now mean that the people of Sabah cannot rely on the EIA system to safeguard the environment?” asked the SEPA President.

It has been reported that the project proponents were clearing land as early as April 2013 with commencement of earthworks for shrimp ponds but the first step of an EIA which is the Terms of Reference was only approved by the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) in July 2013.

In January 2014, the project received EPD approval for only the development of infrastructure such as putting in water pipes and electricity in consideration for the needs for the local community however electricity has been available in the area since 1997, meanwhile the illegal work on the shrimp ponds still continued.

In addition, as the area is classified as mangrove swamp, a riparian zone of 100 meters must be maintained, however upon inspection of areas that have been cleared SEPA found that they were no riparian buffers.

This project was identified under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) and Sabah Economic Development & Investment Authority (SEDIA) and began clearing mangrove areas months before the EIA review meeting was even held in June 2014. It was understood at the time of the review the project’s EIA, it was rejected due to serious environmental issues that had not been addressed adequately in the EIA.

“This project has been developed unsustainably from the beginning. A state authority such as the Sabah Foundation should have acted in a responsible and accountable manner. It could even be argued that this whole “project” is illegal from the start for not complying with the State Laws,” summarised Lanash.

The Malaysian transformation agenda is built on a platform of sustainability and inclusiveness to ensure for long term sustainability. Certification is also a large component of this programme and due to the illegal manner which this project has been carried out, no internationally recognised certification scheme will certify this project.

“Mangroves are crucial to our fisheries industry, wildlife and local community who rely on the sources of income derived from the natural resources available. You cannot rebuild a destroyed ecosystem such as this. And this project is 39 times the size of the Kota Kinabalu Wetlands, so it is a sizeable area that has been destroyed to do an aquaculture project,” stated Lanash.

In addition, it is understood that shrimp aquaculture had a long history of devastating outbreaks of diseases throughout the nation including in Sabah since the 1990s.

SEPA also provided photographs taken as recently as August 2014 showing the continued clearing and destruction of the mangrove system against the wishes of some of the community of the area.

“This destruction must stop immediately and the project proponents must be answerable to laws of this State and remedial efforts be carried out immediately by them at their own cost,” concluded Lanash.

 

The pristine mangroves found in Pitas cannot be rebuilt once it is destroyed. How much more can we afford to lose?

The pristine mangroves found in Pitas cannot be rebuilt once it is destroyed. How much more can we afford to lose?

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PRESS RELEASE: SEPA Warns of Breakdown on Environmental Safeguards in Sabah

Kota Kinabalu, 12th October 2014: In a statement issued today, the Sabah Environmental Protection Association (SEPA) warns that the ‘rule of law’ in Sabah is being disregarded and projects that are unsustainable are being fast tracked without following proper procedures.

“The recent floods in Sabah are a result of breakdown of Sabah’s environmental safeguards as we have seen how blatantly unsustainable development is taking place,” said SEPA President, Lanash Thanda.

Defining “unsustainable developments” as development that occurs at the expense of future generations, SEPA said the State Government must ensure that safeguards placed in terms of laws, regulations and policies be adhered too to ensure that future generations do not suffer from mistakes made today.

“Irresponsible planning, non-adherence to due process, disregard for the laws, and environmental degradation through exploitation of resources generates waste and pollution. Such practices are not sustainable in the long term and it is our children and our grandchildren and great grandchildren that will have to bear the burden. We cannot allow this to happen, we must do better and this is simple enough to do by following laws, regulations, policies and procedures that we already have, these are our environmental safeguards, we have them and we must use them,” said Lanash.

SEPA also stated that interference from interested parties to fast track and by pass environmental safeguards enshrined in legislation must stop and civil servants must be allowed to carry out there jobs without fear of political interference of any sort.

“In the past the people of Sabah could rely on the planning and environmental laws that are available in the State to eliminate environmental hazards, pollution, environmental impacts and corruption that would ultimately affect the people. However this system is now being eroded by being by-passed or fast tracked,” warned Lanash.

SEPA cited examples such as the 2,300 acres of the Aquaculture project in Pitas where pristine mangrove swamps were cleared before receiving approval for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as mandated by the State law. Another case in the city itself is the recent hill clearing/cutting for the new Court Complex on Jalan Sharrif Osman which is being carried out without following the necessary procedures. Even the Tanjung Aru Eco Development project is attempting to set the Terms of Reference for the Special Environmental Impact Assessment without having a finalised Masterplan.

“These three examples are only the tip of the iceberg and we cannot in good conscience allow such blatant disregard for the rule of law as ultimately it will affect the well being of communities and future development of Sabah,” stated Lanash.

SEPA points out that in the past year alone, the media have been filled with environmental incidences of flash floods, hill cutting, water issues, pollution, communities livelihoods affected, human-wildlife conflict. All these factors in some way or another can be contributed to development that has been conducted unsustainably and is linked to the breakdown of these environmental safeguards.

“The rule of law and its due process has to be respected and followed by all, to ensure that these environmental safeguards are maintained to protect the integrity of Sabah. No one person, group, agency or organisation should be allowed to intervene and override the existing due process,” concluded Lanash.

Ends

Pictures

Part of the 2,300 acres of the Aquaculture project in Pitas have been cleared before receiving approval for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as mandated by the State law.

Part of the 2,300 acres of the Aquaculture project in Pitas have been cleared before receiving approval for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as mandated by the State law.

Part of the 2,300 acres of the Aquaculture project in Pitas have been cleared before receiving approval for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as mandated by the State law.

Part of the 2,300 acres of the Aquaculture project in Pitas have been cleared before receiving approval for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as mandated by the State law.

The 2,300 acres of the Aquaculture project in Pitas where pristine mangrove swamps were cleared before receiving approval for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as mandated by the State law.

The 2,300 acres of the Aquaculture project in Pitas where pristine mangrove swamps were cleared before receiving approval for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as mandated by the State law.

Recent hill clearing/cutting for the new Court Complex on Jalan Sharrif Osman which is being carried out without following the necessary procedures.

Recent hill clearing/cutting for the new Court Complex on Jalan Sharrif Osman which is being carried out without following the necessary procedures.

Tanjung Aru Eco Development project is attempting to set the Terms of Reference for the Special Environmental Impact Assessment without having a finalised Masterplan.

Tanjung Aru Eco Development project is attempting to set the Terms of Reference for the Special Environmental Impact Assessment without having a finalised Masterplan.