Friday, October 31, 2014

Anti-dam campaigners to hold ‘jungle conference’ for Baram villagers under threat

BY DESMOND DAVIDSON

Long San and several neighbouring settlements within a 30km radius will be underwater if the Baram dam is built. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, October 31, 2014.

Long San and several neighbouring settlements within a 30km radius will be underwater if the Baram dam is built. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, October 31, 2014.
Anti-dam campaigners in Sarawak will organise a “conference in the jungle” next week for hundreds of people in Baram who are in danger of being displaced by the proposed hydroelectric dam.
The Baram People's Conference on November 6 and 7 in the Kenyah settlement of Long San, which aims to to help the rural folk understand the implications of the dam on their lives and livelihoods, will feature speakers like environmental experts, human rights advocates from Suhakam as well as political scientists.
Local grassroots leaders and elected representatives of the ruling Barisan Nasional and proponents of the dam have also been invited “to give their and the government's point of view” though organisers have little hope they will show up.
“We hope the conference will open the eyes and minds of the Baram people on the dam,” Peter Kallang, chairman of the non-governmental organisation Save Sarawak Rivers, said at a recent Save Baram fundraising dinner in Miri.
“Do the people in Baram know the pros and cons of the proposed dam? How much do they know?
“This conference, we hope, will get the people whether they are affected directly or indirectly or not at all, to think outside the box,” said Kallang.
“We don't want the government to force the dam down their throats.
“We do not have to just follow what the government thinks is best for us,” said Kallang, whose longhouse is outside the dam reservoir.
“The government has a vision. Their vision is an industrialised state powered by the electricity generated by series of dams they plan to build,” Rolang Engang, a local PKR politician, said.
“The problem is the Orang Ulus have no vision of their future. So there is a danger they will just follow what the government thinks is best for them,” he said.
Long San, considered the home of the Kenyah culture, will be underwater if the dam is built, as will several neighbouring settlements with a 30km radius.
Long San is also a popular tourist destination.
Kallang said Long San was chosen over Miri for the venue of the conference to avoid causing unnecessary financial constraints for the people in rural Baram.
“It would cost a person around RM140 to get to Miri on a 4x4 and back. Not many people in rural Baram can afford that.
“So we take the conference to them.” – October 31, 2014.
- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/anti-dam-campaigners-to-hold-jungle-conference-for-baram-villagers-under-th#sthash.uVTXaGjU.dpuf

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