By Joseph Tawie
Some 20,000 indigenous natives of Kayan, Kenyah, Saben and Penan communities living in the Baram division are horrified to hear about the voluminous fast-flowing Rajang River drying up, a phenomenon blamed in part to the impoundment of the controversial Bakun dam which began on Oct 13.
The unexpected dry spell and the continuous impoundment has caused untold misery and hardship for those living along the Kapit, Belaga, Nanga Merit and Pelagus areas.
“Never before have the Baram residents ever heard of the Rajang River drying up or seen such a thing,” said Philip Jau, chairman of Baram Protection Action Committee in a statement to FMT.
“We don’t want this (dry up) to happen to the Baram River, if the construction of Baram dam is to proceed,” he said.
“The committee therefore demands that the government scrap its plan to build the Baram dam which has a capacity of 1,000 MW. Otherwise at least 20,000 indigenous Kayan, Kenyah, Kelabit, Saben and Penan communities from hundreds of longhouses and villages situated along the Baram River valley will be affected and displaced,” he said.
Jau said the majority of the communities living in Baram “strongly and vehemently oppose the Baram dam” and also all the other planned and currently under construction dams throughout Sarawak. He said the state had more than enough supply of energy even without these additional dams.
Jau said that the Baram residents were never consulted about the construction of the Baram dam.
“Even though it is still in its planning stage, the people have a right to know and to decide whether to agree or disagree with the project,” he said, pointing out that if all the planned 12 dams and Bakun Dam are operational, Sarawak would have an insane amount of surplus electricity or 600% surplus.
“The energy generated from Bakun Dam alone is more than enough to power Sarawak,” he said.
The Baram dam is expected to submerge an area of 38,900 hectares (389 sq km) of land and forest. The area is mostly native customary land, and consists of temuda, cultivated lands, gardens, villages, churches, graveyards, community forests and sites of historical significance.
The people are going to lose their longhouses, villages, properties, lands and forests as well as the history as a result of submergence and displacement by the Baram dam.
The dam will also submerge the existing government schools, medical clinics, airstrip and other building facilities which the government have spent a lot of tax payers’ money on.
The longhouse/villages downstream affected by the Baram Dam are Long Laput, Sungai Dua, Sri Kenawan, Uma Bawang, Long Miri (Daleh Pelutan), Long Pilah and Long Kesseh.
In the upstream and within the dam reservoir area are Long Na’ah, Long Liam, Long San, Long Selatong (Kiri & Kanan), Long Apu, Long Julan Asal, Long Julan Pelutan, Long Anap, Long Palai, Long Je’eh, Long Moh, Long Sela’an and Long Semiyang as well as some villages in Akah River that are Long Beku, Ba’ Abang, Long Tap and Long Tebangan.
Source: Hornbill Unleashed