Indigenous leaders question ongoing oil palm and timber activities during COVID-19-lockdown

Timber extraction continues in Sarawak under COVID-19

Oil palm and timber companies received permits to continue work in Sarawak despite national lockdown – indigenous leaders criticise the government’s decision 

(MIRI / SARAWAK / MALAYSIA) From last Wednesday, Malaysia has been under a two-week-lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19. All non-essential businesses have shut down. The Sarawak Government, however, gave out permission to the timber and oil palm industries to continue their operations. While indigenous communities are told to stay home, logging and plantation companies can continue grabbing their forests and lands.

Komeok Joe, the CEO of the Penan organisation KERUAN, is in close contact with communities and was in the field when the government announced the lockdown last week: “Most logging companies have continued the timber extraction as usual since the lockdown. Only few workers stopped their work. Ongoing logging will help spread the virus and is, therefore, an immediate health threat to the communities. Many Penan villages, furthermore, disagree with logging in their forest. It is unfair that the villagers have to restrict their movement as much as possible, while timber companies can still enter all areas. How can the communities check whether companies illegally encroach on their lands?”

Peter Kallang, indigenous leader and chairman of SAVE Rivers, questions the government’s rationale: “Why should the oil palm and timber sectors be different from any other industry? Of course, supermarkets remain open because people would go hungry otherwise. But there is no immediate urgency in processing palm oil and extracting timber for our society. The health risks for workers and the communities are too high. The logging and oil palm industries are not isolated. We have to break the transmission chain of the virus. The government is not reasonable and has misjudged the risk of spreading the virus further through logging and palm oil processing activities.”

The Bruno Manser Fund demands the revocation of the special permit given to the timber and oil palm sectors to continue their activities under the current lockdown. The serious challenge of stopping the spread of the virus should not be undermined by the timber and plantation companies’ interests and should not be abused to grab any further forest and land from indigenous peoples.

The Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) is committed to protecting the threatened tropical rainforests and the rights of the indigenous peoples, especially in Sarawak, Malaysia.

Ecological survey kicks off in Baram communities

On the 2nd of March 2020, villages in the Upper and Middle Baram areas began collecting data on their land, gathering information about flora, fauna, hunting, fishing and land use by walking forest paths and conducting village interviews. The project, called the Baram Heritage Survey, will be the largest survey of its kind conducted in the area. 

The participating Kenyah and Penan communities assert these forests have high conservation value and should be protected. Consultations with communities suggest that the area contains dozens of threatened and endangered species such as pangolins, sun bears, gibbons, hornbills, clouded leopards and binturong. 

These assertions will be tested using a smartphone app tailored for the wildlife of the Baram region. Field technicians will interview village residents, gathering information to explain community reliance on the forest, on fishing and on hunting, both as a food and income source. These data sets will be analyzed by researchers at UNIMAS and at the University of California, Berkeley. 

“Unlike a traditional scientific survey, we are hiring indigenous field technicians from villages to conduct this work,” explains Jettie Word, director of The Borneo Project. “This not only brings income into remote communities, but it also ensures that animal signs are recorded properly, since the traditional ecological knowledge possessed by village hunters far exceeds that of the foreign conservation biology students who typically conduct this type of research”. 

Initial forest monitoring will last for 6 months, potentially extending for a full 12 months to cover all seasonal changes. The Baram Heritage Survey is conducted in partnership between Miri-based SAVE Rivers Network and by the California-based Borneo Project. Both organizations have worked with communities in the Baram region, who have been working to protect their land, forests, and livelihoods. 

“The impacts of the traditional ecological knowledge method that we are using go far beyond a conventional survey,” explains Word. “This method builds capacity in communities, provides jobs, and empowers families and villages to make appropriate collective decisions for themselves and their forests.”

SAVE Rivers is a Civil Society Organisation which advocates for and empowers rural communities to protect and restore lands, rivers and watersheds through research, training and capacity building. For queries please contact: Peter Kallang: +6013 833 1104 or head to saverivers.org  
The Borneo Project brings international attention and support to community-led efforts to defend forests, sustainable livelihoods, and human rights. Protecting human rights and environmental integrity in Borneo is a critical component of the global movement for a just and peaceful world. For queries, please contact info@borneoproject.org or head to borneoproject.org

SAVE Rivers to raise issues with mega-dams at Sustainability & Renewable Energy Forum, SAREF, in Kuching

Delegates from Baram & Sungai Asap led by SAVE Rivers at the SAREF.
Left to right: James Nyurang from Tanjung Tepalit Baram, Ungan Lisut from Sungai Asap
& Edward Ugah from Sungai Asap.

SAVE Rivers in Sarawak Energy’s Sustainability & Renewable Energy Forum, SAREF, starting today in Kuching. With its attendance, SAVE Rivers is making sure that the negative impacts of dams on Sarawak’s community and are not in this international event. SAVE Rivers community representatives from the Baram and Bakun to raise their voice about their experiences with dam implementation and planning in their areas.

With SAREF, Sarawak Energy and the Ministry of Utilities are calling stakeholders to discuss “the role of renewable energy in delivering the United Nations Sustainable Development goals by 2030”. The programme, however, has a strong bias towards large hydropower. SAVE Rivers wants to remind the organisers as well as the participants to bear in mind that the people profiting from large hydropower are hardly the rural communities in need of electricity, on the contrary, they are the ones losing out. Poor communities being the target of the SDGs, Southeast Asian governments must focus their efforts on rural electrification with people-centred technologies such as solar and micro-hydros instead of mega-dams.

Edward Ugah from Sungai Asap Bakun resettlement area said, “building more Dam means more Dayak’s Customary Rights Land will be inundated and therefore having a great impact on their livelihood and heritage. does not necessarily bring economic or social benefit to those who sacrifice so much by being displaced by it.”

Ms. Ungan Lisut another villager from the Bakun resettlement area said, “we have so many problems experienced by those who were resettled in making way for the Bakun dam. Some of these villagers have die without receiving compensation for their inundated farms and lands.”

James Nyurang a village headman from Baram said, “We don’t want mega dams in Baram. But we support generation like micro-hydro and solar power. We love our land, forest and rivers which are. I am a retired civil I have chosen to live in my ancestral village instead of living in the. Like me, there is an increasing number of people who are also moving back to their villages we love this our inheritance.

SAVE Rivers requests the Sarawak government and Sarawak Energy to follow the late Chief Minister Adenan Satem’s decision to cancel the Baram Dam. Peter Kallang, chairman of SAVE Rivers, stressed: “The current government must respect the legacy of our late Adenan Satem and stick to his shift in policy away from harmful mega-dams to real sustainable energy solutions such as solar and micro-hydro.”

SAVE Rivers to raise issues with mega-dams at Sustainability & Renewable Energy Forum, SAREF, in Kuching

SAVE Rivers is participating in Sarawak Energy’s Sustainability & Renewable Energy Forum, SAREF, starting today in Kuching. With its attendance, SAVE Rivers is making sure that the negative impacts of dams on Sarawak’s community and environment are not side-lined in this international event. SAVE Rivers is accompanying community representatives from the Baram and Bakun to raise their voice about their experiences with dam implementation and planning in their areas. 

With SAREF, Sarawak Energy and the Ministry of Utilities are calling stakeholders to discuss “the role of renewable energy in delivering the United Nations Sustainable Development goals by 2030”. The programme, however, has a strong bias towards large hydropower. SAVE Rivers wants to remind the organisers as well as the participants to bear in mind that the people profiting from large hydropower are hardly the rural communities in need of electricity, on the contrary, they are the ones losing out. Poor communities being the target of the SDGs, Southeast Asian governments must focus their efforts on rural electrification with people-centred technologies such as solar and micro-hydros instead of mega-dams. 

Edward Ugah from Sungai Asap Bakun resettlement area said, “building more Dam means more Dayak’s Customary Rights Land will be inundated and therefore having a great impact on their livelihood and heritage. Dam does not necessarily bring economic or social benefit to those who sacrifice so much by being displaced by it.” 

Ms. Ungan Lisut another villager from the Bakun resettlement area said, “we have so many problems experienced by those who were resettled in making way for the Bakun dam. Some of these villagers have die without receiving compensation for their inundated farms and lands.” 

James Nyurang a village headman from Baram said, “We don’t want mega dams in Baram. But we support power generation like micro-hydro and solar power. We love our land, forest and rivers which are our heritage. I am a retired civil servant but I have chosen to live in my ancestral village instead of living in the towns. Like me, there is an increasing number of people who are also moving back to their villages because we love this our inheritance. 

SAVE Rivers requests the Sarawak government and Sarawak Energy to follow the late Chief Minister Adenan Satem’s decision to cancel the Baram Dam. Peter Kallang, chairman of SAVE Rivers, stressed: “The current government must respect the legacy of our late Adenan Satem and stick to his shift in policy away from harmful mega-dams to real sustainable energy solutions such as solar and micro-hydro.” END OF RELEASE 

SAVE Rivers is a Civil Society Organisation which advocates for and empowers rural communities to protect and restore lands, rivers and watersheds through research, training and capacity building. For queries please contact: Peter Kallang: +6013 833 1104 

Sarawak activist who stopped destructive mega-dams wins 2019 Seacology Prize

Peter Kallang (middle) with Duane Silverstein (L) and Mary Randolph (R) from SEACOLOGY during the award presentation.

Miri City, Sarawak on the island of Borneo, Malaysia. Peter Kallang, a member of Sarawak’s indigenous Kenyah community, has been awarded the international Seacology Prize for leading a successful campaign to halt the building of a series of mega-dams on Borneo. The dams would have flooded vast tracts of land, including pristine rainforests, and dislocated tens of thousands of indigenous people. The Seacology Prize is awarded annually to a person who has shown exceptional achievement in preserving island environments and culture.

The Malaysian state of Sarawak is home to some of the world’s most critically endangered and biodiverse forests. Indigenous communities, including the Kenyah, Kayan, and Penan, who have lived in harmony with their environments for generations, now face encroachment by timber companies and palm oil plantations. A huge threat came from Sarawak’s largest-ever industrialisation project for 12 mega-dams – the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE). The SCORE plan included the Baram dam, which would have, without consent or consultation, displaced 20,000 Kenyah people and flooded 400 square kilometers of rainforest.

In 2011, when he was 61, Kallang, a lifelong campaigner for the people of Sarawak and previously a Shell engineer became the Chairman of Save Rivers, a Sarawak NGO. He immediately focused on stopping the Baram dam. With the support of community leaders, he galvanized protests and demonstrations, including river flotillas in towns and remote rural areas. The largest of these protests were two concurrent two-year blockades. One blockade prevented the building of the access road to the proposed site of the Baram dam, and the other stopped all preconstruction at the site. Simultaneously, Kallang was raising awareness and building coalitions internationally, and confronting investor audiences in Australia and Norway.

Kallang also enlisted experts to prove to government and international funders that a better future lay with small-scale renewable energy projects, which would provide long-term community and environment benefits, rather than mass displacement and environmental destruction. In 2016, the government capitulated, and the Baram dam and SCORE were cancelled.

Duane Silverstein, Seacology’s Executive Director, said, “Peter Kallang is a disciplined, passionate and thoughtful leader. He is a committed activist and a courageous champion of indigenous rights who has endured attacks to his reputation, risks to his freedom, and even rifts within his own family and friends because of his outspoken position against destructive development. His approach and courage are an inspiration to all island communities seeking to protect their lands and ways of life.”

Current work and fears for the future

Kallang and Save Rivers are now focusing on renewable energy for Sarawak, partnering with pioneers in sustainable, alternative energy systems to bring clean energy to villages. Seacology is one of those partners. Earlier this year, Kallang spoke at a ceremony in the Sarawak village of Long Liam, where a micro-hydro system, built with support from Seacology, Save Rivers, and others, was officially handed over to villagers. The villagers, who had fought the Baram dam, stressed that such successful micro-

hydro projects prove that rural development is possible without enormously destructive dams. These projects also help preserve Borneo’s precious forests, because logging would damage the watersheds necessary for micro-hydro systems to work.

In March 2019, Save Rivers hosted Sarawak’s first community-based conference on electricity generation. There were more than 300 participants, including representatives from both national and state politics (together for the first time), and over 50 community leaders from across Sarawak. Save Rivers is also supporting the Penan community to map and apply for community control over an expansive, incredibly biodiverse region in northern Sarawak – also for the first time in Sarawak’s history.

Meanwhile, Kallang fears that Sarawak’s mega-dam plans could be revived by the new cash-strapped Sarawak government. The Trusan mega-dam was announced in 2017. Kallang came out in opposition at the time, saying that construction of these new dams would be a contravention of previous government policy and would be wildly in excess of projected energy needs. Nothing very much has been heard since, but the government began building roads to the site of the proposed Baleh dam in 2018 with an anticipated completion date of 2025. The completion of the Baleh dam is thought to be a precursor to the commencement of work on the Trusan dam.

Meanwhile in neighboring Sabah, communities are campaigning right now against the Papar dam, which will displace indigenous communities with similar human rights implications to the Baram dam. Kallang is supporting this campaign.

Peter Kallang said: “I am truly honored to receive the Seacology Prize. It comes at a time when the spotlight of attention needs to return to the destruction and social injustice that lie at the heart of mega- dams in Sarawak and the Island of Borneo, while we continue to demonstrate the value of sustainable community-based renewable energy projects.”

About Seacology and the Seacology Prize

Seacology is a nonprofit organization in Berkeley, California that works to preserve the habitats and cultures of islands around the world. Many island communities face a choice between protecting their natural resources and pursuing economic development. Seacology’s win-win approach recognizes gives islanders an economic incentive to preserve their resources. When an island community wants to protect a forest or marine area, Seacology offers a grant that will benefit the whole community—for example, a school, ecotourism center, or water system. With more than 300 projects in 60 countries, Seacology has helped preserve almost 1.5 million acres of marine and land habitats. Seacology was awarded a 2019 United Nations Momentum for Change award for its climate change work, and has been nominated for the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize.

The $10,000 Seacology prize, now in its 29th year, is awarded annually to a person who has shown exceptional achievement in preserving island environments and culture.

SAVE Rivers chief wins Seacology prize

Peter Kallang (seated, far left) with SEACOLOGY, friends and families who have supported him throughout the years.

MIRI: United States non-profit organisation Seacology has selected SAVE Rivers chairman Peter Kallang as the winner of its annual US$10,000 prize.

The prize is awarded to an islander for exceptional achievement in preserving the environment and culture of his or her home country.

Peter is the first Sarawakian and second Malaysian to win the prize.

In 2004, Sabahan Adrian Lasimbang, who is today a senator, was the Malaysian to win the prize.

The prize is underwritten by Seacology president Ken Murdock in honour of his mother Lalovi Fish Murdock.

For other media coverage on Peter’s SEACOLOGY award, kindly click the links below:

https://aliran.com/towering-msians/save-rivers-peter-kallang-wins-2019-seacology-prize/

https://www.theborneopost.com/2019/09/23/peter-kallang-honoured-with-2019-seacology-prize/

http://english.astroawani.com/malaysia-videos/consider-meet-save-rivers-peter-kallang-1811185?_ga=2.14245047.1057745582.1569404599-801799641.1564799103

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-asia-49753290/award-for-man-who-stopped-a-mega-dam-and-saved-borneo-s-rainforest?fbclid=IwAR36RHVlpRze7F7U3pZYn0UuKnLtZHrrYUyxdP_0yQHBXNJKguTkmfE4edI

We don’t want you to give a “dam”

*We don’t want you to give a “dam”, Sabah indigenous peoples tells Putrajaya*

PUTRAJAYA, 5 September 2019: Representatives from 9 villages which will be affected by the construction of the Papar dam in Sabah, marched to Putrajaya today to appeal to the Prime Minister to help stop the construction of the dam.

The group is representing the Taskforce Against Kaiduan Dam (TAKAD) which have been protesting the construction of the Kaiduan dam since the project was mooted 10 years ago. The project has since been rebranded as the Papar Dam.

“We voted for Pakatan Harapan during the 2018 elections because scraping the dam was one of the election promises. Imagine our shock and devastation this year when they announced that the dam project is back on, this time rebranded as Papar dam,” Diana Sipail, chairperson of TAKAD, said.

“We appeal to our Prime Minister to step in and hold our Warisan-led state government accountable for their election promises, and not let them be reduced to a rebrand of our former government. We also seek the federal government’s intervention since the 2018 corruption case involving the State Water Department arising from the lack of transparent and inclusive process on the alleged water crisis is said to be the reason for the dam. We are in the dark and not consulted on the project to date and it’s necessity where every decision is decided privately. Is the project really for the rakyat or just for profit of the interested parties?

“They (Sabah state government) have demonstrated that protecting the rights of the indigenous people of Ulu Papar is not in their interest. Reviving the mega-dam project puts us at risk of losing our traditions, culture and our rich free environment which we’ve inherited over generations and important for our livelihood,” she added.

The dam, if constructed, will not only displaced over 3,000 indigenous villagers but also destroy the Crocker Range, which was declared a Crocker Range Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) in 2014.

The group’s many appeals to the state government this year have fallen on deaf ears.

At Putrajaya, TAKAD handed a memorandum to the Prime Minister’s office as well as to the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC).

The memorandum questions the need of the mega dam since RM170 million has already been allocated by the Federal Government to reduce Sabah’s Non-Revenue Water (NRW or unaccounted-for-water) from 52% to 20% (“RM170 mln to address NRW issue” Borneo Post, 31 October 2018).

TAKAD also appealed for other solutions to be considered which have less negative impact towards the environment and local communities, such as building smaller and natural water catchments.

“The Crocker Range is not only an important biosphere but also our customary land in which the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) requires that we give Free, Prior and Informed consent (FPIC) to any project that may affect us or our territories,” Sipail explained.

“We would like to reiterate that we stand firm on our decision. It is the same 10 years ago as it is now, we do not want the dam,” she stressed.

“Upholding the dignity of our ancestors is our responsibility, and not something to be pawned under the namesake of development. Sabah is a state blessed with indigenous people and flora and fauna that we all should preserve and protect for generations to come.”

“We obey by the rules and regulations set by the government, in turn, we hope that they listen to the voice of the people and look into sustainable alternatives instead of building the mega dam,” she added.

TAKaD is also organizing a public forum tonight (5 Sept), 8PM at KL-Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall – http://bit.ly/2ZE8uUe

For more info please refer to provided link:
or Contact Diana at (016-8357190) / Nelson Raymond (016-9974589)

Kenyataan Media – http://bit.ly/2lVEmBC
Ringkasan Memo – http://bit.ly/2jZigNZ
Memorandum (full) – http://bit.ly/2k03AON
Photo for Press – http://bit.ly/2lSt8xI