Wed, 31 Mar 2010
By Joseph Tawie
KUCHING: Thousands of natives, displaced by the Bakun dam project, are being asked to pay for a one-room house in the new settlement area, according to the Sarawak Dayak-Iban Association (SADIA).
SADIA secretary-general Nicholas Mujah said the natives, from the Kayans, Kenyahs and Punan communities, were now being “relocated to Sungai Asap and asked to pay RM15,000 for a one-room house.”
He said like the natives in Batang Ai, these natives were also given small plots of land for farming.
“But now the natives in Batang Ai, who also received a small plot of land for farming, are struggling to make a living and are unable to pay for the house.
“The jobs promised to them have never materialized.
“In the words of Nyipa Bato, an Orang Ulu leader, the Bakun was supposed to create at least 200 millionaires, but now it has made more than 2000 Orang Ulu bankrupt,” recalled Mujah.
The Bakun project, which was approved in 1986 and shelved three times, will submerge about 700 square kilometres of land, the size of Singapore, destroying some of the most unique longhouses, traditional native farms and hunting land.
The Bakun region has some of the rarest species of plants and animals that cannot be found anywhere on this planet.
The construction of Bakun Hydro which was originally supposed to supply electricity to West Malaysia through undersea cables has now been abandoned.
Instead it will now supply electricity to an aluminium smelting plant in Similajau some 180 km from the dam.
Mujah said recently, some 400 families who refused to move out from the Bakun area had their houses demolished by officers of the Lands and Surveys.
Fortunately, they applied to the Court to stop the Lands and Surveys from carrying out their tasks.
Similarly at the Bengoh Dam, there were four Bidayuh villages affected and they were directed to move out, failing which action would be taken against them.
Now another 12 dams are to be built and should be completed by 2020.
The dams which are to be located at Batang Ai, Ulu Ai, Metjawah, Baleh, Belaga, Linau, Belepeh, Murum, Baram, Tutoh, Limbang and Lawas will increase the total capacity of electricity in the State to 7,000 MW including Bakun’s capacity of 2,400MW.
Imagine the size of the land to be submerged and the sufferings and miseries the natives especially the Orang Ulu will endure.
Mujah asked: “Do we really need all these dams?
“While the environmentalists are worried about the effects on our ecological systems and the damage to the rarest specimens of flora and fauna, the natives are worried about losing their livelihood, cultural heritage and their NCR land – farming land, their gardens (pepper and rubber) temuda, tembawai, pemakai menua and pendam.
“The government only thinks of economic returns and business opportunities. But we know that companies owned by certain families only are going to reap not millions, but billions of ringgits.
“Companies like SESCO Enterprise, CMS (belonging to Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s family) and Naim Cendera (owned by Taib’s relatives), and timber companies.
“ Plenty of money will come from clearing of forests, the construction of roads, bridges and cables as well as accommodations. SESCO Enterprise will play the leading role in all these dam businesses,” he said.
Meanwhile Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB) senior manager (power systems planning) Dr Lee Hau Aik reportedly said on Monday that the power demands of Sarawak was expected to surge some 3,000 MW by 2020 to meet the needs of the industries in the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (Score).
Dr Lee who presented a paper on “Hydropower for the long-term generation” at the third international conference on Water resources and renewable energy development in Asia yesterday, noted that industries in Score would initially be sourcing power from the Bakun and Murum hydroelectric dams.
The 2,400 MW Bakun dam is scheduled to begin power generation later this year while Murum dam comes on stream in 2013.