Wednesday August 24, 2011
By STEPHEN THEN
MIRI: A special committee has been formed for the relocation of villagers affected by the RM3bil Baram Dam, which is expected to be the biggest such exercise to be undertaken in the state.
Called the Baram HEP Community Consultative Committee, it is headed by Baram MP Datuk Jacob Dungau Sagan with Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau as deputy chairman and a political secretary to the chief minister, Robert Laing, as vice-chairman.
The committee will have representatives from Sarawak Energy Bhd, State Planning Unit, Regional Corridor Development Authority (Recoda), community associations and headmen of the affected settlements.
“It will be the biggest relocation exercise in Sarawak, eclipsing even the Bakun Dam that involved 10,000 people,” Jacob told reporters after chairing the committee’s first meeting here yesterday.
He revealed that more than 20,000 people from 25 longhouses and riverine settlements would be resettled for the building of the dam in Long Kesseh, more than 200km from here.
“Massive development is coming to Baram, but there is a lot of fear among the people concerning the project because of misinformation by the opposition parties and some non-governmental organisations.
“That is why the state has decided to establish this special committee to deal with folk who have to be resettled,” Jacob said.
He said the committee would start negotiating with the affected folk on land compensation soon.
According to him, construction of the access road into the dam site had started.
He added that the authorities were addressing other developments that included preparing the Environmental Impact Assessment and Social Impact Assessment studies by Sarawak Energy Bhd, identification of resettlement sites and, the drawing up of a blueprint on the resettlement scheme.
Asked on the fears of the affected folk, he admitted that there were widespread worries from those who would have to be uprooted.
“I acknowledge their worries, but development is a necessary thing in order to bring progress to the people. Baram cannot be left behind, so this Baram Dam project is a necessity and it must go on.
“Certainly, the construction of the dam will definitely affect the people and their livelihood, but that is why this special committee is formed, to make sure their interest and welfare are protected,” Jacob stressed.