The Sarawak state government must listen to the fatherly advice of former prime minister Mahathir Mohammad to stop building mega dams in the state.
Save Rivers Sarawak (Save Rivers) said this in reply to Mahathir’s call yesterday as such dams brought destruction not only to the environment but also to the livelihood of the natives.
Save Rivers is a coalition of several environment NGOs against the building of dams and destruction of native lands.
Mahathir had delivered a keynote address at the International Energy Week in Kuching and told the state government to rethink its highly controversial policy of building mega dams to harness electricity.
He said that the state government should instead build a series of smaller dams like what Austria and Germany had done.
Mahathir who admitted receiving a letter from Save Rivers told the conference that he shared the fears and concerns of the natives of Baram over the negative impacts that the proposed Baram dam would cause to their land, their livelihood, cultural heritage and their civilization.
SAVE Rivers chairperson Peter Kallang said that the Sarawak government under new Chief Minister Adenan Satem should listen to Mahathir.
“If they do not want to listen to us, the natives, at least they should listen and respect the advice of the former Prime Minister,” said Kallang at a news conference today.
‘Abandon Taib’s plans’
He said Adenan should abandon all the ‘controversial and destructive’ policies which were espoused by the government of Abdul Taib Mahmud.
“We know that Adenan is more kind-hearted, approachable and that he has the interests of the people at heart, and we hope that he should abandon the controversial policy of building mega dams in the state,” he said.
Kallang (left) cited the unsolved problems and miseries of the people who were affected by the Batang Ai, Bakun and Murum dams.
He said that he did not want the natives in Baram to be confronted with an uncertain future.
Under Taib, the state government had built Batang Ai, Bakun and Murum dams and has plans to build 12 more mega dams in the state including the most controversial proposal to build Baram dam.
The Baram dam once completed would wipe out the natives’ civilization, cultural heritage and destroy 26 villages and longhouses. Some 20,000 would be resettled elsewhere.
More than 38,000 hectares of their ancestral lands would be submerged by the dam water.
Natives still in pitiful state
Meanwhile, eight leaders from Sg. Asap, Bakun who were present at the media conference spoke of their miserable lives.
One of them Ngajang Miden, from the Ukit community accused the state government of being 'cruel' to the Ukit people.
The government, he said, spent millions of ringgit to look and protect wildlife such as monkeys and 'Orang Utan' than the 500 Ukits who are only found living in one longhouse in Belaga.
He described the Ukit tribe as 'endangered species', pointing out that there are only two longhouses owned by Ukits in the whole world.
Besides one longhouse in Belaga (Malaysia), two longhouse are found in Indonesian Borneo - one at Long Pangai, Central Kalimantan and the other at Matarunai, Btg Kepuas, West Kalimantan.
"The government treated us worst than the animals," Ngajang said, pointing out that the government not only failed to compensate their lands, but also had been lying to them.
The government surveyed their land and measured their longhouse in 2005.
Yet, until today they have yet to receive their compensation.
Ngajang urged the Baram natives to strongly oppose the construction of the Baram dam in order to save them from the sufferings and miseries that the Sg Asap resettlers have been experiencing.
"Don't listen to the sweet promises of the government," he warned.