Thursday, July 31

Construction of 12 dams - who benefits and who loses?

(Image source: Taken from The Star)

Despite assurance by Sarawak government leaders of their economic benefits, the proposed 12 dams which are to be constructed in the State will have serious ramifications on the livelihood of the Natives as can be seen by the existing Batang Ai Hydro dam in Lubok Antu, and the yet-to-be completed Bakun Hydro dam and the proposed Bengoh dam not far from Kuching.

Built at a cost of RM600 million, the Batang Ai hydro dam that began its construction in 1982 and became operational in 1994 submerged some 21,000 hectares of land, the bulk of it was NCR land and affected 418 families from 26 longhouses. These families who had to be moved out from the area for a new “beginning”, lost everything – their livelihood, their land, their cultural heritage and their roots.

No doubt some received compensations for their losses including land, but there are some people who were not compensated as they were unable to prove their customary rights over their land. Yet there are others who received their compensations just before the 2006 state elections – some 24 years later. There were also sad stories of those who received their compensations earlier, as shopkeepers and car companies took advantage of their quick riches. Today they are poorer as compared to the pre-dam period.

The promise of new “beginning” does not materialize. The two acres of land promised to each family are grossly inadequate. Worst still when a family extends. Even though the dam supplies electricity to all parts of Sarawak, there are longhouses near the dam are yet to be supplied with electricity such longhouses at Ensawang.

As for the Bakun project which was approved in 1986 and was shelved three times, it will submerge about 700km square of land, the size of Singapore, displacing some 10,000 Natives (Kayans, Kenyahs and Punans). Leaving behind some of the most unique longhouses and their traditional farms and hunting land, they are now being relocated at Sg. Asap where they are asked to pay RM15,000 for a-one room house. As at Batang Ai, they are also given a small plot of land for farming. Now they are struggling to make a living and are unable to pay for the house as the jobs promised 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 2,000 Orang Ulu bankrupt!

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 of West Malaysia through undersea cables has now been abandoned. Instead it will supply electricity to an aluminium smelting plant in Similajau some 180 km from the dam.

Recently, some 400 families who refused to move out from the Bakun area had their houses demolished by officers of the Land and Survey Department. Fortunately, they applied to the Court to stop the Land and Survey Department 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 of the Natives especially the Orang Ulu will be endured.

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 tress) ‘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 whose CEO is Abdul Aziz Hussein, Abdul Taib Mahmud’s brother-in-law, CMS (also belongs to Taib’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. So, who do you think benefits the most?

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Anonymous said...

Hi..very good write about the dam issue.


Anonymous said...

Please do not repeat mistakes and keep on draining tax payers' money, sacrificing livelihood of people and enviroment for white elephant project. Government should know better, how many dried up dams have been built, for what? Needless to talk about 12 dams, one Bakun dam is not able to be materialised since the feasibility study done sometime in the 70s. Better donate the money to charity!!

From Concerned Rakyat

Jetty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jetty said...

I appreciate your comments dear readers..I wish "we" could do something to make the Govt understands our stand.

Thank you.


Since I also agree to this view:
“Can the people of Sarawak expect 600% growth in its economy or 600% improvement on its basic infra-structure by 2020 - roads, water, electricity, health, family income, etc? It might be easier to criticize but it much easier to know that building the 12 dams is not going to be of benefit to the people in Sarawak. All the reasons and purposes stated by the government for the dam construction is not in sync with the need of Sarawak. We should not focus on the needs of others after all charity starts at home.”
I say that you are not against the government and who is government if there’s no citizens? Where’s the justice and improvement when there’s no critique? You are our retain RENTAP!
If I am Taib Mahmud, I will certainly against your idea that I may claim to be blamed the bloggers because you are continue exploding the truth. I say you know the truth because it’s you community whose affected by the dams before us and thus you CAN says you are knowing the truth. As not only against the Bengoh Dam but we against the most politicians YB,s in Sarawak because they really know their bad purpose to the aborigines but just denied it to have the benefit. As aborigines I also agreed and proud to your idea because your sacrifice to say and asking:
“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 tress) ‘temuda’, ‘tembawai’, ‘pemakai menua’ and ‘pendam’.”
BUILD TO BE DAMMED! Better donate the money to charity!!