Residents in three villages affected by the Bengoh dam project in Sarawak are refusing to leave, saying the land is their life.
“The land that we live in now rightfully belongs to us. It’s our livelihood, it’s not for profit,” said village representative Tawat Ak Sanyok.
The Rejoi Nyegol, Bojong Siting and Sait-Muk Ayun villagers have refused to move out of the perimeter of the dam they did not agree to the terms of the resettlement.
The villagers also slammed Sarawak Public Utilities Minister Awang Tengah Ali Hassan for blaming their refusal to move on opposition politicians.
“It is unfair for Awang Tengah to blame us for colluding with the opposition. Since the project started, we have not agreed with the offer given by the government.”
The villagers further claimed that another reason they have refused to move out was because the resettlement project by the developers had been delayed.
“The ones who agreed to move out under the Bengoh Relocation Scheme (BRS) still haven’t done so as it is not completed.
Tawat also claimed that the resettlement committee coordinator Austin Dimin had gone back on his statement in a meeting at the end of last year, where he said the villagers had the right to live on their own native rights land and can continue living there.
"Austin's statement (this August) is as if he has forgotten what he had told us during that meeting," lamented Tawet.
The Bengoh dam, with approximate storage of 144 million cubic metres and a catchment area of 127 sq km, was designed as a regulating dam for the flow of the Sungai Sarawak Kiri to the Batu Kitang Water Treatment Plant.
Based on the Sarawak Integrated Water Resource Management Master Plan Study (2009), the augmented safe yield for Sungai Sarawak Kiri after the commissioning of the Bengoh dam can meet the projected raw water requirement for Kuching areas including Asajaya/Sadong Jaya, Bau/Lundu/Sematan and Tapah/Beratok/Siburan up to 2050.