Environmental NGO Save Rivers wants to know who Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem had consulted before proceeding with construction with the RM4 billion Baram dam project.
“We question who exactly are the leaders that Adenan has consulted and for whose interests do they really speak? Why did they have a ‘closed-door’ meeting? No one can speak on behalf of others, especially without consultation,” Save Rivers chairperson Peter Kallang said in a statement today.
It was reported yesterday that Adenan had discussed the Baram dam project with the Orang Ulu community, at a meeting in Miri.
According to Bernama, Adenan said the Orang Ulu supported the hydroelectric dam, and the project will start as soon as possible.
Peter however claims the local community in Baram are strongly opposed to the project.
“Since 2008, so many letters and petitions representing the voices of thousands opposing the Baram Dam have been sent to the chief minister. Are all of these people now to be totally ignored? We shall continue to protect our land,” he said.
Besides petitions, villagers from 30 settlements in Baram have also blockaded roads leading to the Baram basin since 2013.
The dam, if constructed, will reportedly flood over 34,000 hectares of land, which is about half the size of Singapore, and displace some 20,000 people.
Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (Joas) president Thomas Jalong said the adverse affects the dam will have on the environment will negate Adenan’s progressive speech while in London.
“The chief minister’s recent speech in London about the preservation of forests is meaningless in the face of (the Baram Dam) statement.
“Now he is evidently willing to back the narrow interests of Sarawak Energy Berhad over the rights of thousands of people and at the expense of vast forested areas that serve as the very lungs of our land,” he said,
Critics of the Baram dam claim Sarawak’s energy needs can be met without constructing such a massive hydroelectric plant.
Among the solutions that have been proposed and are being implemented in rural villages, are the use of mini-hydro generators, which only requires a steady stream of water without having to create artificial lakes.