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Malaysia rejects coal project in Borneo rainforest

Malaysia rejects coal project in Borneo rainforest

Malaysia rejects coal project in Borneo rainforest
April 14, 2008

Malaysia has rejected a $408 million coal-fired power plant near a protected rainforest area in Sabah, on the island of Borneo.

The state government has directed Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd and Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) not to proceed with the coal-fired power plant in Silam, a site near the ecologically-sensitive areas of Darvel Bay, the Maliau Basin, Danum Valley and Ulu Segama. The Sabah cabinet said the energy firm would need to look for alternative sources of energy and sites.

Danum Valley. Photos by Rhett A. Butler

“After weighing the pros and cons, the cabinet has decided to do away with this proposal because we do not want to risk the welfare of the community in the area including their health and any adverse impact on the environment,” Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said in a statement last week. “We need to look for more environmentally friendly sources of energy.”

Musa added that the project could have adversely affected Sabah’s nascent nature-based tourism industry.

“We also cannot allow for such a plant to be built because the conservation areas have been designated as the ecotourism sites under the Sabah Development Corridor,” he said. “We still have an environment that remains untouched. We cannot trade off the environment for progress and deprive our future generation of Sabah’s natural wonders.”

The government of Sabah is putting increased emphasis on the state’s natural attractions including world-class diving, biodiverse tropical rainforests that house the orangutan and other endangered species, and Mt. Kinabalu, Southeast Asia’s highest peak.

Still Borneo has vast mineral resources including rich and relatively accessible coal deposits and gold. Much of the island is suitable for oil palm development, which is expanding rapidly especially in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo.

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