Another mega dam in Sarawak? No, thank you.

Miri – The decision to proceed with the construction of the Trusan Dam is in direct contradiction with previous policy. 

In an recent article in The Borneo Post, Abang Johari was quoted as saying the Trusan dam in Lawas will be built after the completion of the Baleh Dam in Kapit.

At an interview with Channel News Asia in May 2016, the late Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Adenan Satem stated, “The reason (for scrapping the Baram dam) is that I have examined the matter. There’s no need to have another big dam. We can have mini dams and so on, but not big dams especially when we don’t supply (power) to west Malaysia anymore.”

This year, in another article, published by the Borneo Post, Chief Minister Abang Johari announced that he would continue the legacy of the late Chief Minister while looking ahead for new economic model in order to achieve Sarawak’s aspiration to be the leading state in Malaysia by 2030. But building another mega dam does not seem to be consistent with Adenan’s policy.

The modern international trend is to invest in small-scale and green power sources which have minimum impact on the environment and the ecosystem. One example, which could be adopted for rural Sarawak, is micro-hydro power systems. Sarawak has a multitude of small streams which could be considered for the construction of micro dams. Power could be tied-in and distributed via mini-grid system in the rural areas. The late Tan Sri Datuk Amar Adenan Satem was keen to establish reliable power distribution for the rural areas of Sarawak.

Commenting on the announcement for the construction of the Trusan Dam, Mr. Peter Kallang, the Chairman of SAVE Rivers said, “After the completion of the Bakun dam in 2011, the then Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water Datuk Peter Chin said that after the commissioning of Bakun dam, there was going to be no worry about power shortage in Sarawak for a long time.” He continued, “Now not only do we have the 2400 MW Bakun dam but also the 944MW Murum and soon the 1295MW Baleh Dam. So why do we want to build the Trusan Dam?”

SAVE Rivers is a grassroots network of indigenous communities and civil society organizations in Sarawak, working to protect human rights and stop destructive dams in the state. For Queries please call: Peter Kallang – 013 833 1104

Water supply is one of the many problems in Sungai Asap

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Dry taps or murky domestic water is not the only outstanding issue suffered by those who were displaced to make way for the controversial Bakun Dam. Although there has been a chorus of complaints about the dirty water supply recently, the authority should also seriously and urgently draft an overall action plan to solve the many problems existing in the resettlement area.

They owe it to the villagers to fulfil promises which were made to them before and after they were moved to Sungai Asap.

After 19 years since they have been resettled, there are still many more outstanding and serious issues which impact the people’s social and economic well-being. Some of these problems concern their farmland, housing, unpaid compensation, roads, telecommunication and job opportunities.

One of the most commonly shared woes is regarding their lands, both farmland and the land allocated for their longhouses, which is insufficient to meet their requirements. For the farmland, most of the land owners are not able to fully utilise theirs because the sites are not accessible by roads. The only means to reach that land is on foot through the forest.

So transporting produces from the land or bringing equipment for farming could only be done by manually carrying them and walking for hours.

When asked, Alexander Lihan from Uma Nyaving Sungai Asap said, “After our many complaints, the authority did build a main road from the trunk road to the farm site. However, it was not tarmac but surfaced with a thin layer of pebbles. Besides, there were no feeder roads from there to the land plots located away on either side from that main road.” said Alexander,

“But now after just a couple of years, even that so called main road is washed away and it is overgrown with bushes and tall grass. Now, we are back to square one.” When asked, Alexander said, “In our old village the river was our means of transport and with their own boats the folks were able to reach their farms or anywhere they want to go. So here, most of us are not able to farm like we did in our old villages. ”

Tuah Miku also of Uma Nyaving in Sungai Asap said, “If the authorities fulfil their promises which they made before we moved and at campaign times for the various state or general elections, it will go a long way in solving our problems.” Showing the manifesto for the candidate who won the Murum state sit in the 2016 state election; he continued, “Until today there are so many who have not received the full compensations for their former home and land.”

One family from the Penan Talun village in the Sungai Asap resettlement area (who want to remain anonymous) complain about bad workmanship, cheap, soft woods and inferior quality materials used to build the houses allocated to those resettled. To prove their point, they show their toilet, where the toilet bowl and the sewer pipes have dropped off and the septic tank for the toilet was overflowing. However, the toilet is still being used.

As the houses was built on stilts, the faeces from the toilet just dropped on the bare ground under the building. The situation caused a disgusting stink in their whole house.

Peter Kallang, the chairperson of Save Rivers commented, “In order to be called sustainable, developments must be environmentally and socially friendly. The well-being of the people or the human rights issues must be prioritised when planning for any development. Bakun, Murum and Batang Ai are not good examples.