Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sarawak natives demand return of land with shelving of Baram dam

BY DESMOND DAVIDSON

A barricade put up by the local tribespeople blocks the road leading to the Baram dam site. After much protest and efforts by NGO's including, Save Rivers, the Baram dam project is now shelved. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, November 19, 2015.


A barricade put up by the local tribespeople blocks the road leading to the Baram dam site. After much protest and efforts by NGO's including, Save Rivers, the Baram dam project is now shelved. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, November 19, 2015.
















Tribespeople in Baram want their land acquired for a proposed mega hydroelectric dam returned to them, now that the Sarawak government has shelved plans to build it.


“The government needs to revoke the gazette on the land proposed for the dam and its reservoir,” the anti-dam group's leading light, Peter Kallang (pic, left) of the NGO Save Rivers, said in reaction to Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem's surprise announcement yesterday not to proceed with the 1,200MW dam.
The chief minister said the focus would now shift to constructing the dam, which is of similar size, at a largely uninhabited area of Baleh, in the upper reaches of the Rajang River, instead.
Kallang, chairman of Save Rivers – the NGO co-ordinating the protests to stop the construction of the dam – also said anti-dam folks there want an unambiguous statement from Adenan that the Baram dam would never be built.
The Baram dam would have inundated 400 square kilometres of land and displaced around 20,000 people if built.
“While the people of Baram welcome the announcement by the chief minister that the proposed Baram dam is 'on hold until further notice', the majority of them still demand a total stop of the project.
“The resistance (to) the dam is indisputable,” Kallang said.
Adenan, speaking at the Public Service Day at the Borneo Convention Centre in Kuching yesterday, said the decision to shelve the Baram dam was made out of respect for the views of the local community.
“If you don’t want the dam, fine. We will respect your decision.”
The chief minister also warned them: “I hope you understand the impact for refusing it, as you will be missing out on related projects which are beneficial, such as roads and other necessities.
“One day, you will find that not building the dam has given some disadvantage and as a result of this, you suffer. That is in your own hand. It is your decision.”
Kallang brushed aside this threat, saying the natives there were not convinced by the government's constant promise of development and improved living standards, after witnessing the negative impact of other dams on the people of Batang Ai, Bakun and Murum, as well as in other countries.
Sarawak has plans to build a series of up to 12 dams for hydropower to feed its industrial belt.
The Baram dam was the third of 12 dams meant to help the state's quest to attract heavy industries and be an industrialised state by 2030.
“In any case, building infrastructures and providing public amenities is an essential role of the government.
“It must be built with or without the Baram dam. If the government neglects this duty, it has failed its role," Kallang added. – November 19, 2015.
- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/sarawak-natives-demand-return-of-land-with-shelving-of-baram-dam#sthash.ByhSvtcO.dpuf

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