Monday, 9 March 2015

Marking 500 Days of the Baram Blockade

MIRI 7th March. Today, the Baram villagers, resisting the proposed Baram dam, mark the 500th day since the blockades were launched. On the 23rd October 2013, villagers from 30 settlements in the Baram district set up blockades in Long Lama and Long Keseh to foil works on the Baram dam project. The blockaders evicted workers who were carrying out the preparatory works for the proposed dam and their machineries from site. Based on the plan by Sarawak Energy  Bhd (SEB) the proposed site for the Baram dam is a location between Long Keseh and Na’ah which is about 250 Km from Miri city. Since the start, the two blockades have been manned by various villagers from all over the Baram basin.

Preparatory works carried out for the dam which triggered the blockades were geological surveys, construction of access roads and preparation of quarries facilities. The works were carried out although the mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was not completed nor was there any approval sought from the land owners of the Native Customary Right (NCR) land used for the works. The NCR lands belong to the villagers in the area, who were angered by the unethical conducts of the dam builders especially the intrusion into their land and farms.

Beside the preparatory works, logging companies are still rushing to harvest the timber in Ulu Baram in anticipation of the Baram dam project. During the last 500 days, the blockaders have been confronted by these companies and their representatives who claimed to have legitimate logging permits for normal logging activities. On top of that, challenges were also given by the Sarawak Forestry Department and armed police personnels who for a period stationed their officers at the blockade site in Long Keseh and forcefully took down the road barrier. The barricade at Long Keseh was taken down by the loggers and forestry officers twelve times within the last 500 days and each time this happened, it was installed back by the blockaders.

Commenting on action of the forest department which was supporting the logging activities, one of the land owners and blockaders from Na’ah, Anyie Eng  said, “The forestry department is a government body, they should serve us with integrity. They are supposed to abide by the law and eradicate wrong doings. But here they are intruding into our land; they exploited our timber and land bare and they even used their own personnels to remove the road barriers we set up to protect our land.” Anyie Eng and his group from Na’ah and Long Keseh have filed a lawsuit in Miri against the government over their native land. Baram dam is one of the twelve mega dams which the Sarawak state government and Sarawak Energy Bhd proposed to be built under the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) plan. SCORE which is purport to make Sarawak a developed state by the year 2030.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Collective Murum mission

Published: Sunday October 6, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Sunday October 6, 2013 MYT 2:34:40 PM

MIRI: It is a race against time to rescue dozens of endangered animals in the Murum Valley threatened by rising waters from the impoundment of the Murum hydroelectric dam that began about two weeks ago.

The water behind the main dam wall is rising fast. Trees and bushes that sheltered these endangered animals are fast being submerged.

The Star yesterday received a call from an environmental activist who claimed that people were seen trying to capture these rare animals using traps.

Calls to the Wildlife Department went unanswered, probably because it was a weekend.

The Star also called up Penghulu Saging Bit, a local chieftain in Belaga, to find out what was actually happening.

Saging explained that the people who were trying to trap and capture the animals were wildlife rangers from Sarawak Forestry and locals hired to help them in the task.

“Personnel from Sarawak Forestry are trying to catch the animals in the Murum valley to save them from the rising waters. Attempts are being made now to trap these rare animals so that they can be relocated to higher ground.

“There are locals helping out in this task. There is a very big area to cover and there are many types of animals on the ground and living among the treetops. It is not an easy task,” he said.

Saging said there were many endangered animals, among them deer, macaques and hornbills, in the valley.

The Star yesterday obtained a copy of the Social and Environmental Impact Assessment Report on the Murum dam from a government source, and indeed, in the report, it was noted that there were at least 99 species of birds and at least 19 species of mammals living in the Murum valley.

Sixteen of the bird species were categorised as rare and protected while six species were listed as endangered and totally protected, including hornbills and Argus pheasants.

The endangered mammals found in Murum that are totally protected are Bornean Gibbon, Giant Squirrel and Western Tarsier.

The report recommended that the animal rescue operation be done in such a way that these birds and mammals were trapped and then released in forests beyond the dam area where they can continue to nest and forage for food.

The report acknowledged that construction work at the Murum dam site and flooding of the dam reservoir had indeed brought adverse impact to the birds and mammals in Murum and that this was one of the negative consequences of the project.