31 October 2010
by Wan Luhan
BELAGA: Residents of Long Mejawah become the first victims facing livelihood hardship following the impoundment of Bakun Hydro Electricity Dam on October 13.
The 51-door longhouse in Long Mejawah consists of 300 odd Kayan inhabitants who are now literally cut off from outside world due to the sharp decline of water level in the Balui River. Their communication with outside world has been interrupted, not to say obtaining essential supplies, sending children to schools, travelling to Belaga Bazaar to work or for official matters and other unexpected problems that may arise.
It is reported that people have to take an alternate route by using logging track road on motor vehicle through Bukit Jayung which will take them six hours to reach Belaga Bazaar. The fare for a single trip of estimated distance of 30 kilometres is RM70 per head or a total of RM140 for the return trip. But it only takes them three hours to travel to Bintulu.
What puzzling the inhabitants was the approval and funding by the government to construct a road from Long Mejawah to Belaga Town under the Eighth Malaysia Plan (8MP) at the cost of RM13 million which until today has not been materialised. What they feel dissatisfied is the government has been capable to rush and achieved the construction of the 70 kilometres from Bakun to Murum, and yet the construction of 30km road from Long Mejawah to Belaga Bazaar remains a mystery.
The people also feel unhappy with the poor arrangement made by the government without taking into consideration of the hardship that affect the people with the commencement of impoundment on Bakun Hydro Electric Dam while leaving the people to face the consequences.
The local residents are also dissatisfied with the government to give priority to commercial interests and the interests of the people are placed secondary. This, they claimed, contradict to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak’s philosophy ‘1Malaysia, People First, Performance Now’.
With the 10MP going to kick off the ground, where is the pledge made under 8MP? This is the answer the residents in Long Mejawah want to know.
Women folks in Long Mejawah most concerned are about the safety of their children. Their children are now compelled to walk back from their boarding school every weekend. The journey takes up from three to four hours and, occasionally they have to walk on dried part of the river which often, full of debris and pebbles.
According to an elderly folk, Lidi Sali, he travelled to Belaga District Office to collect his monthly welfare aids. He said with the communication being interrupted since the impoundment began on October 13, he had to make a detour to Belaga.
“But my welfare aids is only suffice to pay the fares of RM140,” he says, adding that previously he only paid RM30 for a return trip to Belaga Bazaar on an express boat.
Meanwhile, local people are disappointed with the Government citing “unusual dry weather, resulting in rapid decline in water level,” as the reason for the drastic drop in water level in Balui River.
They point out communication between Kapit to Belaga and Belaga to Long Mejawah has been disrupted due to low water level. There are nine longhouses and one primary school along the route between Long Mejawah and Belaga Bazaar.
This rural folks are now most worried about what is the future lying ahead since the impoundment will take about a year to complete and yet, the water level of Balui River has reached to such a critical level only two weeks after the impoundment has started.