Saturday, October 12, 2013

Villagers cry foul over move to gazette land as national park

First Published: 8:11pm, Oct 10, 2013

FZ.COM/Ng Ai Fern

KUCHING (Oct 10): Villagers affected by the Bengoh reservoir dam some 40km from here are crying foul over the state government’s decision to gazette their ancestral land, which was located within the dam area, as national park.
In a letter dated Sept 9, the Forestry Department informed respective village heads that their areas had been gazetted as Bungo Range National Park (extension I). Villagers are told to reply within 60 days, and their claims written in the provided forms have to reach the Council Office on or before Oct 20.
"Distressed villagers reached me yesterday evening to help. Villagers are strongly objecting this (their land gazetted as national park)," Batu Lintang state assemblyman See Chee How told, adding that he would pursue legal action on behalf of the villagers next week.
See, the state PKR vice-chairman, is also the legal counsel for more than 25 families from two affected villages – Kampung Pain Bojong and Kampung Rejoi, who sued the state government over their ancestral land affected by the building of the Bengoh dam.
In 2009, the villagers had filed a suit against the construction of the dam. Other than inadequate compensation, the villagers also claimed that Bengoh dam would affect their native land and or rights.
The construction of the RM310 million Bengoh dam started in 2007.  Once completed, the dam could submerge an area covering 1,600 hectares.
The dam has a capacity to store 144.1 million cubic metres of water, which will be supplied to the Batu Kitang treatment plant. This would increase the plant’s current capacity of 786 mega-litre per day (MLD) to 2,047 MLD for use by consumers in Kuching and Kota Samarahan.
The other two affected villages are Taba Sait and Semban. More than 200 families from these four villages would be displaced by the dam. 
Many villagers had also built new houses on higher ground above the water level, hoping to move there and continue their farming activities as their original houses would be submerged in water. 
Two mini-hydro system were built by non-governmental organisations in two new villages. The DAP’s recently launched the "Impian Sarawak" project aimed at providing clean water in Kampung Sait.
Semban – located on top of the hill – although would not be submerged, villagers are still required to move to the settlement site.
Though at its completion stage, many villagers refused to move to the RM192 million Bengoh Resettlement Scheme area as many outstanding issues are yet to be resolved.
These issues include the setting-up of a primary school in the resettlement area, and payment of outstanding compensation, according to the Bengoh Resettlement Scheme (BRS) Communication Task Force Committee chairman Itodio Peu as reported in local newspapers recently.
Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud had reportedly said that the state government would settle the compensation issues within three years.

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