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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

‘Learn from victims of other dams’


Save Rivers is skeptical of claims that the state government has 'briefed' the local Iban community in Baleh about the impact of a proposed dam.
MIRI: The Save Sarawak’s Rivers Network (SAVE Rivers) has advised the Iban community in Baleh to fully weigh the impact of the proposed Baleh dam on their livelihood.
Its chairman Peter Kallang said the community must weigh the pros and cons before accepting the government’s proposal to build the dam.
“They must know the impact of the proposed Baleh dam on their lives and their culture, and it will destroy and submerge their land before they can accept the construction of the dam.
“We want the community to see what has happened to those affected by the Batang Ai and Bakun dams,” he said.
He said there was still the possibility of blocking the dam’s construction.
“The feasibility studies on the proposed dam are still ongoing and the state government has yet to approve its construction,” Kallang added.
He was responding to remarks made by local leader Temenggong Kenneth Kanyan who said that the Iban community in Baleh is very receptive to the proposed dam at Ulu Baleh River.
The dam would bring economic growth to the area, and this was one of the ways the state government would bring in physical development to Baleh, Kanyan had said.

Skepticism over government’s ‘briefing’
But a skeptical Kallang said it was unlikely that the state government or its representatives had briefed the community as to the full extend of the construction.
“SAVE Rivers doubts whether the Iban community in Baleh is fully briefed on the proposed Baleh Hydro-electric Power (HEP) Dam before they can claim to be receptive to the idea.
“From the mega-dams conference organised two weeks ago by SAVE Rivers, four participants from Baleh clearly stated that they were not fully aware about the proposed dam project and have registered their objection to it.
“From SAVE Rivers’ research, the residents of Nanga Antawau, Baleh are only aware that the Baleh dam access road is going to be built through their village and not much information was given by the authorities about the pros and cons of the proposed dam, ” Kallang said.
He also asked if a social and environmental impact assessment (SEIA) study had been carried out in the area.
“We also want to know if such a study (SEIA) has done and whether this document (SEIA) has been made available for public scrutiny.
“We want to know whether the resettlement and compensation plans are already made public.
“We want also to know whether the people affected have been properly informed and consulted without any coercion from the authorities,” he added.
Resolve outstanding issues first
Kallang pointed out that a community chief had no right to give consent, on behalf of his community, to accept the proposed dam.
“The construction of mega-dams is not the only means to develop the state.
“Sarawak needs development and I believe that the people all want to have better living standard but building mega-dams will destroy the rivers and submerge the very land which the people need for development.
“Once again SAVE Rivers would like to state our demands that all proposed mega-dams to be built in Sarawak shall be immediately and permanently stopped.
“All outstanding issues with regard to compensation or matters concerning any human rights for peoples affected by dams already constructed or under construction shall be solved immediately.
“The people’s decision and their right to disagree for the dams to be built shall be respected and taken into account,” he said.

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