Big debate continues over Tanjung Aru beach project

KOTA KINABALU - A big debate continues over the planned RM1.5bil (S$583mil) development of the city’s iconic Tanjung Aru beach.

Environmentalists against the project argue that the people will lose access to the beach with big hotels and resorts sprouting.

The proponents, however, claimed they are actually saving the beach, which they alleged would be wiped out by erosion in 20 years.

Environment-linked non-governmental organisations have started a Let’s Save Tanjung Aru Beach signature campaign to urge the state government to reject the project just as the state-owned Tanjung Aru Eco-Development (TAED) goes on a road show to explain the need for the development projects.

As the signature campaign took off on Saturday, TAED executive director Datuk Victor Paul explained to the Chinese community on the need to save the beach from further erosion.

“The beach has already eroded by 60 to 70 metres. If you leave it as it is, you won’t even have Prince Philip Park, as it will be claimed by the sea,” he told the Federation of Chinese Associations of Sabah (FCAS) and City Hall officials here.

“In 20 years, there won’t be any more aru (casuarina) trees left,” he said.

Paul said the proposed reclamation was necessary to preserve the beach that had already lost 100m of coastline in the last 50 years.

The opposing SOS-KK (Save Open Space-Kota Kinabalu) group continued to campaign with beach gatherings and a signature drive to appeal to the state government and City Hall to reconsider the recent zoning of Tanjung Aru into a commercial area for hotels and resorts.

They have reportedly made a counter-proposal that the beach be re-zoned into a “landscape and open space for public use”.

Coordinated by environmentalists Jefferi Chang, SM Muthu and Julia Wong, the group said the people were bound to lose a large tract of public beach, including Prince Philip Park, which they claimed was among the last pieces of government land in the Kota Kinabalu area.