By Joseph Tawie
KUCHING: PKR leader and activist lawyer Baru Bian has offered free legal service to any person or group wanting to sue Sarawak authorities and logging companies over what has been called an “ecological disaster” affecting the rivers Rajang and Baleh.Referring to the clogging of the rivers by logs and debris, he said:
“The logjam is evidence of a failed forest or environmental policy in Sarawak. I believe anybody affected by the disaster can take legal action. I am prepared to take such action on behalf of such people on a pro bono basis.”
Bian is a well-known native customary rights (NCR) land lawyer and chairman of PKR Sarawak.
The logjam started last week with massive amounts of logs and wood debris drifting down the Rajang for about 250km, stretching from Ulu Baleh to Sibu and disrupting river communication between several towns.
It killed tonnes of fish, including Sarawak’s famous empurau, which costs about RM500 per kilo on the market.
In Kapit, scores of longhouse chiefs expressed anger at loggers who have been operating at Ulu Baleh. They alleged that it was uncontrolled logging that had caused the debris.
They are demanding compensation.
“We have lost our livelihood, especially after the death of fish at Sungai Baleh,” said one of the chiefs. “It is very difficult to catch any fish now.”
Fish is the source of both food and income for many people in the affected areas.
Sarawak Land Minister James Masing on Tuesday flew over the mountains of Ulu Malatai in Ulu Baleh and said the logjam was caused by landslides and soil erosion resulting from uncontrolled logging.
He said the place resembled a “war zone”.
"Landslides and soil erosions have destroyed at least three hills in the area,” a news report quoted him as saying.
"The affected area is so big that it took 10 minutes of flying time for the helicopter to reach the other end.
"You could see exposed rocks after the landslides and erosions. There is no doubt that excessive logging caused the landslides and erosions.
"The landslides and erosions must have blocked the rivers, creating a temporary dam."
When the dam burst, he added, it released large volumes of water, logs and driftwood into Sungai Baleh, Sungai Balui and Sungai Rejang.
Source: Free Malaysia Today