Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Villagers in dilemma

by Zoee Hillson, Posted on October 23, 2012, Tuesday

Construction work to cut through Sungai Muda to build Ba Kelalan-Bario road stirring a nightmare among Ba Kelalan folks
Paran Padan
BA KELALAN: The presence of heavy machinery belonging to the Royal Army Engineers Regiment for the construction of the Ba Kelalan-Bario road has stirred a nightmare which folks here encountered in 1994.

The dilemma for some 2,000 people here is that while they welcomed the RM42 million road project with open arms, they simply cannot trade the water catchment area at Sungai Muda for this amenity.

Allowing the army to pummel through Sungai Muda in order to implement this long-cherished road link would mean contaminating the main source of drinking water and water for padi fields and livestock of six villages and an international award-winning primary school.

It might even impoverish the villagers because livestock and padi fields constitute their main sources of income.

The villages which will be affected are Punan Kelalan, Long Muda, Long Kumap, Long Langai, Long Lemutut and Buduk, while the school is SK Bakelalan.

In 1994, the villagers had to defend Sungai Muda for the same reason, and they managed to halt a timber company from encroaching into the virgin jungle around the area.
Villager Paran Padan said his people hoped that the project would use the Belingi-Lepo Bunga-Bario route instead.

“We find that cutting through Sungai Muda highly unnecessary when in fact they can use the Belingi-Lepo Bunga-Bario route, which will not affect any of our water catchment area,” he said as a matter-of-factly.

“Sungai Muda River is our livelihood. If it is destroyed and polluted, what will we drink and how will our padi fields and livestock survive? Our padi fields and the jungle is our Lun Bawang legacy and we never want to lose it.”

Paran added that Ba’ Kelalan folks was all for development, but it should be sustainable ones.

In arguing their case for the Belingi-Lepo Bunga-Bario route to be used, Paran said it was not only sustainable but ideal as well because the fertile soil along the area could be expanded for village farming.

It is also a route used by pilgrims to Gunung Murud.

“We were told that the Belingi-Lepo Bunga-Bario route will cost more because it is 20 kilometres longer than the 42-kilometre Sungai Muda route,” he said.

“However, we believe it shouldn’t be because the route is already there, and only culverts are needed to improve the route.”

Paran added that many villagers, in fact, believed that the Sungai Muda route was more costly because it entailed a big clearing of the virgin jungle.

“Our people and jungle are extremely vulnerable to change because we are very dependent on the jungle,” he pointed out.

“The jungle in Sungai Muda is extremely rich in ‘meranti’ and ‘jati’ trees, and the jungle produces `Rukan’ wood which is heavily researched as a possible cure for cancer.”
Construction of the RM42 million Ba’ Kelalan-Bario road project started on last Oct 1 and is expected to be completed by Sept 2014.

According to a Bernama report last month, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zaidi Hamidi said the Royal Army Engineers Regiment with is heavy machines are already in Ba’ Kelalan.

Ahmad Zaidi added that the project was under the Blue Ocean Strategy, and was a continuation of the ‘Jiwa Murni’ project which saw the upgrading of a 75-kilometre road from Long Luping to Ba’ Kelalan. That road was completed in September last year.

~ The Borneo Post

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