Sep 252008

An article on Sabah and the environment. This gentleman took all the trouble to write it and send it, so the least I can do is reproduce it.

Also, eventful Umno meeting tomorrow eh?

A letter from Sandakan.

From KL to Sandakan on Air-Asia is a fast 2 plus hours and one is
ready to enjoy friendly hospitality, fresh-seafood and the embrace of
mother nature. On our MAS, Malaysia’s National Carrier it takes a bit
longer – 2 hops and almost a day. Besides seafood, Sandakan is also
well known to Westerners as the sanctuary for Oran Utan, Proboscis
monkeys and endangered Turtles (on Turtle Island). To Australians,
Sandakan is known for her War Memorial dedicated to our Aussie heroes
marched to their death in WW2. To be fair, Sandakan was also captured
in a less known Japanese “B” movie of the same name. She is also home
to the famous American writer Agnes Keith who once lived here with her
family and was inspired to write of her experiences about the Land
under the wind. Her house now stands as a tourist attraction
show-casing how the whites lived in paradise as it was then (after the
Government spend millions fixing the old home at the hill top). Even
books were written about the non-white inhabitants – The Towkays of
Sabah – better known for clan rivalry to exploiting timber trade.
Setting aside its historical moments, Sandakan always stood as a
refuge for us who have made it our home since grandpa’s time, all
stood proud when she was crowned with the Title – Nature City, a first
in Malaysia.

In early 2008, Sandakan woke up to the prospect of hosting a 300 MW
Coal powered plant at her door-steps, courtesy of the Government and
the Sabah Electricity S/B (subsidiary of Tenaga Bhd).This Coal powered
plant was earlier rejected by Lahad Datu (a nearby town) because it
might endanger or damage Meliau Basin and its prehistoric flora/fauna.
If the Government have their way with Sabah Electricity, they will put
a 300 MW Coal powered plant in Sandakan and more specifically (though
unconfirmed) in the Palm Oil Industrial Cluster (POIC) which is
situated a stone throw from two housing estates (towards north) and to
the forest reserves for Oran Utan (towards west). Sandakan town sits a
close 14 km to the east.

Interestingly this throws up TWO questions which are why COAL and WHY
in Sandakan? What did Sandakan do or did not do to deserve this ? No
responses from the relevant authorities to date to answer the call for
Coal or Sandakan or both. In fact the only response from them (Sabah
Electricity S/B) is a rhetorical reply asking the public to present
other viable alternatives to their liking if this Coal powered plant
is to be questioned. Great, this already tells volume of the EIA
report which by the way is not even ready. For the uninitiated, Coal
powered plants are well studied and well known to be the least
favorable option of all the alternatives even with the soaring costs
of other alternatives. For example SierrraClub provides a link to show
how bad it is and that is only the
surface. With information at our finger tips, our leaders must think
we are slow or unassuming and we so easily cowed by their
irresponsiveness, as a sign of their strength or ignorance ?

Be that as it may, Sabah (the State) in fact has voluminous off shore
gas (if they had not already pre-sold to the Japanese by Petronas-
since no one is saying) and this should be considered the better
alternative requires little mental effort. In fact, a combination of
gas, biodiesel, solar (being in the tropics) and biomass should be
considered given Sandakan is the uncrown palm oil capital of Malaysia.
Anyone with some common sense could see Coal is not the answer to
problematic electricity problem. In fact, this was the first excuse
the Sabah Electricity S/B gave to pacify the population. It is no
secret that the main issue with blackouts in Sandakan has to do with
maintenance and the lack of it, as stated by a former Minister who was
also a former employee. It is often that after a heavy downpour the
electricity goes out because some trees fell and tripped the lines.
There are unconfirmed rumors that equipment used in the current power
plant are reconditioned from other states which may partially explain
its dire state. After all, Sandakan is still the record holder with
the most blackouts in Malaysia but we don’t really mind given the
alternative. Dinner by candle lights ? Blackouts give more quality
time with family watching fireflies instead of TV or playing computer
games. Some tourists that I know were delighted because they had not
experienced a blackout before. Fancy that.

Why Sandakan ? Most cities in Sabah are connected by a national power
grid which means one can have the Coal powered plant plugged anywhere
on the grid. Logically, this could be at a site of most opportune
(read cheap) and logistically convenient. I assume the Coal powered
plant will be located at the POIC but to be fair no official
announcement on this has been made to date. The POIC is a 1000 acs
development to enhance the Palm Oil Industry. The proponent has a
website here and is offering RM 12 (US 3.64)
per square meters. A typical Coal powered plant will take up at least
300 acs of land with a further 100 acs for its waste (ash). But who
are the real proponents of the POIC ? In fact, the entire POIC was
acquired through the infamous Land Acquisitions Ordinance of Sabah and
some of the former owners are already complaining in Court. So who
else have so much power in this State besides the Chief Minister ?
Well, that will be the Yang Di-Pertua Negeri or Governor but the
Constitution of Sabah
only allows him to act on advice (but whose advice?). With a stroke of
a pen he declared over 100 landowners’ land to be acquired for POIC
under “public purposes”. Those with financial backing will contest
else will have to accept whatever compensation by the State (however
distasteful) which may come only at the State’s convenience (read –
years from now).

Finally, the Local Council (in Malaysia local councilors are unelected
and positioned by their political masters) is trying to rezone the
entire area designated for POIC from preservation of hilltop to
special industrial (an unknown term), a process which actually
requires public participation-feedback from the displaced landowners
under the Town and Country Planning Ordinance. So far no notice was
published in the newspaper or gazetted for this rezoning. I was
informed that this was not required as its rezoning is by an
‘amendment’ to a previous Sandakan Draft Plan 2003. Sounds a bit
controversial to me. For some understanding of Sabah law goto

So at the end of the day or night wherever you may be, I hope you will
put in a word or two for us in opposing this monstrosity and be
disgusted in the manner how this was forced upon us, not forgetting
how this will definitely and positively add more carbon dioxide to the
environment, affecting our climate (yes yours too) and probably
causing us to be homeless due to rising sea-levels. Yes, we will miss
our seafood or blackouts but we do not have any choices as mere
citizenry. But you have choices, please write to the Prime Minister of
Malaysia (if he is willing to listen), and
complaint about the Chief Minister of Sabah and the proponent ( or vote on this

  4 Responses to “Coal Powered Plants in Sandakan?”

  1. my question is tat since we don’t have any coal reserve, where can we get the coal? is the coal supply pre-bought by contract already from our neighbour now tat Lahad Datu had Meliau Basin as the mother of reason they have to resort to other place to put it?

    wat abt the gas field we had in KK side? can’t it be transfered here to the east side but instead transfer to Bintulu? count the distance and also cross border with Brunei. all these looks suspicious.

    but if you ask me, at the end of the day, it will become futile effort. the BN government will try EVERYTHING. expect more blackouts to justify the erection of this power plant.

    pray for Sandakan.

  2. I find it a total waste of effort to talk to or even reason with any authorities ( be it in Sabah or any other states, including the Federal Government) as long as the power is still in the hand of BN. BN is already so infamously famous domestically & internationally for its corruption, undertable, abuse of power, intentional ignorance on the well-being of Malaysian, cronyism, injustice……………………….whatever you can think of, you name it. Given BN is nearly an absolute majority in Sabah, do you think ordinary Sabahan like you and me can have any say in anything?? For so many years, we are already too familiar with their ways of doing things. as long as BN are still holding on to power, they can literally move mountains & sea to achieve their selfish & wicked interest, as in the case of sodomy charge on Anwar & the murder of Mongolian woman.

    Thank God, March 08 Political Tsunami is a important lesson & turning point for all Malaysian. It is time for all Malaysian to understand that our fate need not be manipulated by that few “Elite”(Evil) in BN. We are not living in Feudal era, now is 21st Century, do we as the citizen of this country still want to be governed by dinosaur??? Don’t let our State Assembly and Parliament continued to be a place for rubber stamp & “Yes” men any longer , we want to see more meaningful & constructive debates for the good of all Malaysian; We want our voice be heard & represented in State Assembly & Parliament!!!

    There is only one way to stop evil practices, including this one, and that is to TOPPLE BN GOVERNMENT. History has present to us an alternative in politics-Pakatan Rakyat, for us to make this possible. PR may not be a perfect political alliance, but it is definitely a force to be reckon with. Unless BN clean themselves up internally, which in my view is not possible as long as UMNO is still the dominant party, we must choose another political force which represents the interest of all races more fairly & adopts openness in policy implementation. I hereby appeal to all out there who want to see a healthy change in political culture in Malaysia, make BN lose their power as soon as possible or latest in next General Election…..

  3. No coal Plant power Station in Sandakan!

    Bad as the environment here in Sandakan presenly, we don’t need more damage to contribute. The air quality is visibly unclean already by many saw mills here. Not to mention of other air polluting emission from nessessary daily human NEEDS.
    The oceans is murdered quiet everyday by domestic (+plastics and disposable diapers especially!!) and industrial waste from palm oil estates and other such factories.
    Years ago when I was a child we could easily eat oysters and all sort of clams, shells, lobsters and many more kinds of sea foods easily cought by fishermen. Now????? The size of their catch is either too small a number or none at all. Their way of livelihoods also change. They are poorer and poorer in quality of their catch and ecomony.

    I say, we don;t need more electric power for now. What we need is to upgrade our management of electricity distribution. I believe with 1.3 billion ringgit, much more can be learned and refined.

    Environment issue is not a political issue and shouldn’t be politicized. This is about our life. This is about the life of those unable to decide – like the urang utan, rhinos, the prawns, the monkeys and all living things that shares Sandakan, Sabah as their home. OUR home! This is about the choice we have to make in order to succeed as shepherd of earth.

    I therefore urge all people in Sandakan as well as those who value Sandakan please speak up and voice out your opinion. Do it NOW because NOW is all you and I have. NOW.

  4. The top available control technologies has to be clean and innovative. Experienced scientists and engineers play a major role within the BACT world.

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