File photo shows villagers protesting against the Baram HEP.
KUCHING: It has been about 500 days since the villagers from 30 settlements in Baram set up blockades in protest of the proposed Baram Hydroelectric Project (HEP) dam and still, their fight goes on.
The folk there first erected blockades in Long Lama and Long Keseh on Oct 23, 2013, with the aim of stopping workers and their machinery from entering the proposed dam site encompassing Long Keseh and Na’ah, about 250km from Miri city.
At the time, the workers were supposed to carry out preparatory works comprising geological surveys, construction of access roads and preparation of quarries facilities.
These works were carried out despite the incomplete mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as well as non-approval by Native Customary Rights (NCR) landowners for their plots to be used for the project.
A statement from SAVE Rivers – a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that fights for the human and native rights – yesterday said as the NCR land belonged to the villagers there, they were angered by the unethical conduct of the dam builders whom they claimed had ‘intruded’ into their land and farms.
“Apart from this, logging companies are still rushing in to harvest timber in Ulu Baram in anticipation of the Baram dam project.
“Over the past 500 days, the blockaders have been confronted by these companies through their representatives, who claimed that they (companies) have legitimate logging permits,” SAVE Rivers said.
Police and Forest Department enforcers had taken down the 12 blockades over the past 500 days as well.
“However each time this happened, the barricades were re-installed by the protesters just as quickly,” the NGO said.
One of the NCR landowners from Na’ah, Anyie Eng, was disappointed in seeing how things were handled.
“The forest authority is a governmental body and as such, it should serve us with integrity. It is supposed to abide by the law and eradicate wrongdoings,” he lamented.
Anyie and his fellow Na’ah and Long Keseh folk have filed a lawsuit in Miri against the government over their NCR land.
For the record, the proposed Baram HEP is among 12 mega dams that the state government and Sarawak Energy Bhd planned to build under Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) – a masterplan that aims at propelling the state to becoming a developed economy by 2030.