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Thread: Sarawak's Dam(n) Problem

  1. #1
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    Oct 2008

    Sarawak's Dam(n) Problem

    Power, profit, and pollution: dams and the uncertain future of Sarawak

    Kara Moses, special to
    September 03, 2009

    Sarawak, land of mystery, legend, and remote upriver tribes. Paradise of lush rainforest and colossal bat-filled caves. Home to unique and bizarre wildlife including flying lemurs, bearcats, orang-utans and rat-eating plants. Center of heavy industry and powerhouse of Southeast Asia.

    Come again? This jarring image could be the future of Sarawak, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo, should government plans for a complex of massive hydroelectric dams comes to fruition. mongabay.

  2. #2
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    Oct 2008

    Re: Sarawak's Dam(n) Problem - 'This government is very bad'

    To be labelled as such by its own people that it is supposed to protect, that's the ultimate shame. But then again, do the people in the Ruling Regime have any sense of shame?

    'This government is very bad'

    Sunday, 27 December 2009 10:49

    KUALA LUMPUR - A massive tract of Borneo jungle, an area the size of Singapore, will soon disappear under the waters of the Bakun dam, a multi-billion-dollar project nearing completion after years of controversy.

    The dam, which forced thousands of indigenous people off their ancestral lands, has struggled through setbacks and delays since its approval in 1993, as well as fierce criticism over its environmental impact.

    But even before the turbines of the 2.2 billion dollar hydro-electric facility begin to turn, activists have sounded the alarm over plans for 12 more mega-dams on Malaysia's half of Borneo which it shares with Indonesia.

    'This government is very bad'

    Balan Balang, an elderly chief of the Penan tribe, sighs as he talks of the Murum dam, the first of the dozen dams envisioned for Sarawak state, which will drown the hunting grounds and burial sites of his people.

    "This government is very bad. In the old days people would fight us using machetes or spears. But now they just sign away our lives on pieces of paper," said the headman, who sports the elongated earlobes distinctive to his tribe.

    "My people never want to leave our place. We want to die in our place," he said, after a long journey from his rainforest home to seek help from indigenous lawyers in Miri, a coastal town in Malaysian Borneo.

    Human rights activists are intent on avoiding a repeat of the botched relocation of some 15,000 indigenous people in the Bakun area who they say have made an unhappy transition to life in resettlement areas.

    Balan Balang's village is outside the Murum resettlement area, but some 1,500 people -- mostly Penan but including another of Sarawak's tribes, the Kenyah -- will be forced to abandon their homes for an uncertain future.

    The chief, who is not sure of his birth date but reckons he is "between 70 and 80 years old", has seen much hardship during his long life.

    Long life of hardship

    As a young boy he watched fearfully as Japanese warplanes flew overhead during the World War II occupation, while rampant logging later degraded the jungles where his people forage for food, wild game, and materials for shelter.

    penan.jpg"Now the rivers are all polluted. The wildlife has slowly disappeared -- wild boar, deer, gibbons. Even the broad-leafed plants that we use for roofing, and rattan which we use to make mats and baskets, is gone," he said.

    But what brought him to Miri are new threats to his way of life, the dam project as well as plantation firms who want to clear what is left of the jungle and grow palm oil and foreign timber species.

    "Our people oppose our area being included for the dam because that's where we come from, our ancestors lived and died and were buried there. For us we have no other place, that is our only place," he said.

    The Penan of Sarawak, famed for their ability to live off the jungle armed only with blowpipes and machetes, number around 10,000 including 300-400 thought to be among the last nomadic hunter-gatherers on earth.

    Balan Balang is just one of many tribal leaders who have sought the help of Harrison Ngau, a former member of parliament who belongs to a network of indigenous lawyers fighting for tribal rights in Sarawak.

    'ATM card to make money'

    "All these dams, why do we need so many dams here? It's just an ATM card for the political leaders to make money," said Ngau, who has been jailed in the past for his stand against mega-dams and logging of Penan territory.

    "There will be further loss of their heritage, their land, whatever forest they have left," he says from his humble offices.

    Ngau said a notice extinguishing the rights of the Murum people over the affected land has already been issued, and construction has begun, but so far there is no formal relocation proposal or offer of compensation.

    He and his colleagues are now campaigning to halt the next of the dozen projects, the Baram Dam, but he says it is difficult to prove ancestral ownership as the oral history of his people is not admissible in court.

    "It is quite sick to know that your own fellow man, your fellow Malaysian, doesn't understand the customs and cultures and history of our people," he said. "That is the tragedy here."

    "Even the British colonial rulers were very respectful of communal rights, they even encouraged the native communities to record their traditional boundaries. They did much better than our present Malaysian leaders."

    Ngau said that the Penan, forced to shift from the Bakun area more than a decade ago, are still struggling to survive with insufficient farming land, schools, clinics, water supply and transport.

    "You haven't solved that problem -- you want to start a new problem?" he asked.

    Transparency International has labelled Bakun a "monument of corruption" and highlighted debate over whether there will be enough customers in 2011 when it becomes fully operational with a 2,400MW capacity.

    All the valuable timber has already been removed from its catchment area, and the dam will begin filling up in January, taking eight months to submerge all 70,000 hectares (270 square miles).

    Details of the 12 mega-dams envisaged by state body Sarawak Energy Berhad are scant -- a map of proposed locations of dams purportedly to be built by 2020 was published on the Internet and seized on by campaigners.

    May not be built for 50 years

    Sarawak's Rural Development Minister James Masing said that all 12 dams may not make it off the drawing board.

    j"That is a masterplan that we have the potential to build, they may not be built for 50 years," he told AFP earlier this year.

    Masing, who is helping formulate the Murum relocation, said it is likely to happen in three to four years' time but that first there should be a careful study of the people involved.

    "There are some areas we have to refine. The settlement project must be done properly. What was done in Bakun may not be one of the best, we may have been ignorant of some of the issues," he told AFP earlier this year.

    "We want to change them for the better," said Masing, an anthropologist by training. "They have good reason not to trust us, but we are not there to destroy them, we are trying our best to assist them." - AFP MalaysianMirror....

  3. #3
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    Oct 2008

    Re: Sarawak's Dam(n) Problem - TV2 Bakun docu-series terminated

    TV2 Bakun docu-series terminated: What they didn't want you to know

    Friday, 30 April 2010 admin-s

    (Aliran) A nine-part TV2 Mandarin documentary series which was to be aired from 26 April to 7 May was forced off the air on 28 April. What didn't they want us to see? Our correspondent provides some clues.

    The documentary series was supposed to report on the social impact faced by more than 10,000 natives of the Belaga area who were forcibly relocated to Sungai Asap and Sungai Koyan area in 1998 to make way for the controversial Bakun Dam. Two episodes of this documentary were aired on 26 and 27 April before the series was yanked off.

    Chou Z Lam, the producer of the documentary, revealed in a blog post that this was another instance of news interference by the BN government during and after the Hulu Selangor by election. He was told that some “sensitive elements” in the documentary could be harmful to the coming Sibu by-election and the Sarawak state election.

    Chou felt sorry for the people of Sungai Asap whom he had interviewed, for their problems and voices could not be heard now by the people of east and west Malaysia.

    And what are some of the problems faced by those forced to relocate? Our correspondent reports: Malaysiatoday....

  4. #4
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    Oct 2008

    Re: Sarawak's Dam(n) Problem - Malaysia's Bakun dam - a monument to corruption?

    Malaysia's Bakun dam - a monument to corruption?

    Posted on 12 September 2010

    (AFP) - THE multi-billion-dollar Bakun dam in Borneo, already condemned as a catastrophe for the environment and tribal people, is now battling suggestions it could become a giant white elephant.

    The dam, which will eventually submerge an area the size of Singapore, is finally nearing completion after suffering a series of setbacks and delays since its approval in 1993.

    But at the last hurdle the project has stumbled again, with delays in winning the state government's permission to begin the flooding process and no deal yet on purchasing its hefty 2,400 megawatt output.

    With ambitious plans for an undersea cable to feed the Bakun's electricity to the Malaysian peninsula now abandoned, the Sarawak state government is the only feasible buyer - leaving it with a very strong hand.

    Negotiations not going smoothly

    Negotiations with the dam developer Sarawak Hidro, a subsidiary of the national finance ministry, have reportedly been tough.

    'It's a case where the owner of the project is naming an asking price that is very different to what the buyer would want,' said Wong Chew Hann, an analyst at Malaysia's top bank Maybank.

    'I understand there's quite a huge mismatch,' she said.

    'I'm not sure what they've incorporated into the pricing, but the cost of the project has gone up so much since it was started.'

    As well as the cost of construction, there is the expense of compensating tribal people for their forced relocation from ancestral lands, and suppliers affected by the long delays.

    "So the question is, are you going to incorporate all the compensation costs in the tariff price?" said Wong.

    With the indigenous people from the Bakun catchment area long since resettled and its valuable timber resources long since felled, the dam has been ready to be flooded since April.

    The state government had delayed permission, saying it was still evaluating river levels and the impact on boat transport.

    A Sarawak minister reportedly said last week that the necessary permit has been granted, denying both that it had been used as a bargaining chip to lower the tariff and that Sarawak was facing an energy glut.

    Not held to ransom

    Sarawak Hidro managing director Zulkiflie Osman played down suggestions that he has been held to ransom by the state government.

    "Both parties are working together and want it to be settled amicably, with a tariff acceptable to both parties," he told AFP, adding that he expected to strike a tariff deal before December.

    The next of Sarawak's mega-dams, the Murum, which is being developed by the state government, is due to come on line in 2013 but Osman said he was convinced the state authorities will not bypass the Bakun in favour of its own project.

    Alongside the power purchase negotiations, the federal government is also said to be discussing selling the entire Bakun facility - built at a reported cost of RM7.3 billion - to the state government, but pricing and finance problems have emerged.

    Star daily reported in July that the federal government was seeking RM8 billion while the state government offer was just RM6 billion.

    The Bakun's output far exceeds existing energy needs in Sarawak, a relatively undeveloped state, and is mostly destined for industrial users such as aluminium smelters, but these are still on the drawing board.

    "The main problem is that currently there is no demand for such a big capacity yet, and in order for Sarawak Energy to purchase the dam they would need adequate funding," said an analyst with a major research house.

    "The banks would ask for some kind of feasibility study, and as there is no real demand yet this project risks becoming a white elephant," said the analyst, who declined to be named.

    Newspaper reports have questioned how the federal government can ever hope to recover the huge amount of money it has sunk into the project.


    "Marred by too many disagreements, the RM7.3 billion project could very well turn out to be a non-starter," Star said last month, adding that with both the Bakun and Murum dams online there would be a "very real possibility" of a power glut.

    Transparency International has labelled Bakun a "monument of corruption" in Sarawak, a state that has been ruled for three decades by the formidable Chief Minister Taib Mahmud.

    There has also been fierce criticism over the botched relocation of 15,000 indigenous people, who have made an unhappy transition to life in drab resettlement areas.

    Baru Bian, chairman of the opposition party Keadilan in Sarawak, said the Bakun project was designed purely to profit cronies, and not planned in the public's interest.

    "The dam is a waste of public funds, it's not necessary, and what is paramount is that it is disturbing and disrupting the lives of the natives and the environment - the trees and the forests." Malaysia-today....

  5. #5
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    Oct 2008

    Sarawak Baram Dam: Can camera-toting natives spark rural revolt?

    Can camera-toting natives spark rural revolt?
    FMT Staff | February 23, 2011

    A group of visitors from the interior of Sarawak have returned home from Kuala Lumpur with photos of skyscrapers built with Sarawak money.

    KUALA LUMPUR: Dumbstruck by the sight of towers piercing the clouds above Kuala Lumpur, visitors from the Sarawak interior have gone home to their village on the Baram River with pictures that they hope will give their relatives some idea of how they felt during their visit here.

    They experienced “a kind of revelation,” said their spokesman, Willie Kayan.

    “They were amazed by all the tall buildings in KL, especially the Petronas Towers, and they asked where all the money came from.

    “I told them the money came all the way from Sarawak from our oil and gas.

    “They were sad, they were angry, and they took a lot of pictures.”

    He said this would be the story that they would tell in their village of Long San, in the upper reaches of the Baram, which, among Sarawak’s great rivers, is second in length only to the Rajang.

    The group of visitors numbered about 30, including children. They represented the Kenyan, Kayan, Berawan, Malay and Iban communities. Willie is a Berawan.

    Long San has been described as “the modern world’s last outpost” on the Baram. Beyond the village lies a range of mountains housing the world’s thickest rainforests.

    The visitors were in Kuala Lumpur last week to demonstrate against rampant logging in their area and Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s plans for more mega dams.

    “Our fears and concerns aren’t baseless,” Willie said. “There have been enough scientific studies on the effects of deforestation and the dams. We don’t want the Baram Dam.

    “Bakun has taught us a lesson. Until today many of the 10,000 displaced people have not received whatever was promised to them,” he said.

    The massive Bakun Dam, a controversial project associated with former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, lies across a tributary of the Rajang.

    Fear of damage

    Willie and his group’s immediate concern is the proposed 1,000-megawatt Baram Dam, sited some 200km inland from Miri.

    They want the proposal scrapped because for fear of damage to the social and natural environment.

    “It will affect our lives,” he said. “We will be deprived economically. We will have limited sources to generate a livelihood. Because of this, we will also be deprived socially.”

    The visitors, who were here for three days last week, said they were alarmed by the clearing of massive forests to construct a highway to facilitate the construction of the dam.

    They, as well as many other critics in Sarawak, feel there is no justification for the Baram Dam as the energy generated by the 2,400-megawatt Bakun Dam is more than sufficient for Sarawak’s energy needs for many years to come.

    According to Willie, the visit to Kuala Lumpur had made them realise how much Sarawak had lost “due to Taib’s corrupt administration”.

    In recent months, the alternative media have published scores of reports on what seems to be immense wealth owned by Taib and his family as well as the opulent lifestyles they lead.

    Alongside these reports have been articles on poverty in Sarawak. Sabah and Sarawak, which are oil and gas hubs for Malaysia, are the poorest states in the country.

    Plunder and squander

    So shocking were the revelations of Taib’s extensive international portfolio of properties – allegedly derived from the plunder and squander of state resources during his 30-year term – that Kuala Lumpur has stepped back from offering him unequivocal support despite Barisan Nasional’s (BN) need for Sarawak’s vote bank in the forthcoming general election.

    Yesterday, the Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) hammered in another nail when it revealed a blacklist of 49 Taib-linked companies in eight countries.

    According to the BMF statement, the companies were “thought to be worth hundreds of millions, if not billions, of US dollars”.

    “A considerable number of the companies are active in the real estate and property sector,” it said.

    Meanwhile, Sarawak Report, an online newsportal which has been at the forefront of reporting on Taib’s wealth, is wondering if Willie and his Long San group’s courage will seed a native revolt against Taib.

    “The courage and desperation of the small group should not be under-estimated,” it said.

    “Their gesture is a sign of big changes in Sarawak as the local people, who are normally shy and self-reliant, have started to react to the intolerable pressures of Taib’s land grabs.

    “There is no need for the Baram Dam or indeed the 12 other dams that Taib plans to build with a loan of US$11 billion that has been offered by the Chinese.

    “The enormous Bakun Dam, which is currently flooding an area the size of Singapore along the Rajang River, has already displaced 10,000 native people, who are suffering hardship and destitution in resettlement areas where they have no access to the food and products that once sustained them from the jungle.

    “Now half a million other indigenous people are in fear of the same disaster befalling them.” Malaysia-today....

  6. #6
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    Oct 2008
    Bakun Dam has no genuine economic purpose

    Firstly, the Dam has no genuine economic purpose. Sarawak already has more electricity than its impoverished population can afford to use and the plans to send it to Malaysia by undersea cable was a fantasy by technology-illiterate ministers.

    Secondly, the dam will actually make electricity more, not less expensive for ordinary Sarawakians, as existing power plants will be shut and Sarawak Hidro are desperate to claw back some of the RM 7.3 billion costs.

    Thirdly, the public worker pension funds, which were arm-twisted by politicians into funding the dam to the tune of RM 5.75 billion, are now left facing an appalling loss. This means either a whole generation of hard-working public servants (teachers, nurses, clerks, firemen etc.) will now lose their savings for old age, or the Malaysian taxpayer (the next generation of workers) will have to find the extra money to bail them out.

    Pensioners’ loss is Taib family gain

    Therefore the all-round conclusion has been that Bakun is a monstrous, multi-billion dollar disaster. Southeast Asia’s greatest ‘White Elephant’ foisted onto Malaysia by Sarawak’s ‘Chief Executive Officer’ Abdul Taib Mahmud. Perhaps, it is speculated, at least tourists will come to visit such an appalling example of state planning gone spectacularly wrong?

    However, these commentators are neglecting to point out that from the point of view of Mr Taib’s personal finances and those of the Taib family, the Bakun Dam has been a stunning success.

    Much of the RM 5.75 billion siphoned out of the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (KWAP) by this project has gone gushing straight into the Taib bank accounts – and then presumably straight on out of the country to fund their private foreign investments.

    Researchers have long since detailed how it was the decision to revive the Bakun Dam project, after it was shelved during the Asian Financial Crash, that rescued Cayha Mata Sarawak (CMS), the business the Taib family ‘privatised’ from the state into their own pockets, in the late 1990s.

    By 1999, CMS, which had over-stretched on ambitious projects, was facing terrifying losses of RM 787 million. The Chief Minister (whose late wife and two sons owned most of the shares of this ‘public’ company) was even more alarmed as the share price collapsed as a result. The ‘CEO of Sarawak’ was facing personal bankruptsy, since most of his family company’s borrowings were based on the value of these CMS shares.

    So it was the political decision by the Malaysian government to pour RM 1.6 billion of taxpayers’ money into Bakun (a sum which has since escalated to 7.5 billion and rising) that saved the Taibs’ from ruin (and kept BN in power in Sarawak). Everyone knew that the Chief Minister would award his own company the lions share of the contracts for this glorious mega-project (CMS specialises in producing cement and steel) and that the company would go from strength to strength.

    Endless profit to be made ~

    The Chief Minister does not miss a trick when it comes to making money and Bakun has gone on to provide wonderful further opportunities for abuse of public trust. Thus, his own company CMS has now gone on to further establish itself as the biggest private customer of the publicly owned venture that it built.

    The company has done a deal with Rio Tinto Zinc (despite the horror of environmentalists) to build a vast aluminium smelter to soak up Bakun’s excess power. This consortium is currently playing hardball with Sarawak Hidro, the Federal government body in charge of the dam, to get a preferential deal for electricity. This at a time when Taib is negotiating on behalf of the State of Sarawak to buy the project off the Federal Government.

    This means clever Taib has set himself up as the biggest client of the state venture that, as Finance Minister and Chief Minister, he is going to be entrusted with managing of behalf of the interests of the taxpayer! As far as conflict of interest goes that is about as big as it gets!

    Meanwhile, Sarawak Report wonders whether his business partner, Rio Tinto Zinc, has considered dusting off its own ethics book on this issue, and leafing through to the section on doing business with corrupt tyrants?

    Clearly, the opportunity to move politically sensitive and highly polluting aluminium smelting plants out of Australia, where the mineral is mined, and into Sarawak is tempting. Taib, of course, plans to cover the whole of this once pristine rainforest state with filthy foreign industries to foul up what remains of the dammed up river basins – the so-called Sarawak Corridor of Energy.

    However, while the Chief Minister regards himself impervious to criticism and bullet proof at the ballot box (no fool like an old fool), the business executives at Rio Tinto have learnt the hard way about the dangers of deals such as these. Their local back yard environmentalists in Australia may be happy to see them move off, but the global environmentalists will be only too ready to hold such actions to account. And the native peoples of Sarawak are not that happy either, to put it gently.

    No benefit to Sarawak

    Citizens of Sarawak have also learnt the hard way that the jobs from dirty industries such as these will go to foreign workers and the money will go straight back out again. They know that ’Progress and Development’ , Taib-style means environmental destruction, land seizures and poverty for the many and vast riches for….. well Taib.

    All of which explains why the multi-billion dollar plan to go on building pointless dams across the whole of the rest of Sarawak, displacing tens of thousands more indigenous people and destroying vast areas, while appearing to be the strategy of a mad man makes enormous economic sense personally to Abdul Taib Mahmud.

    This is because China has agreed to invest US $11 billion to do it. Most of that money he reasons will go to him and after that who cares that the people of Sarawak will be in debt to China and therefore under China’s control for ever more?

  7. #7
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    Oct 2008

    Sarawak: Baram Dam - used to flood out the natives from their NCR land

    Very effective strategy. Worked well at Bakun. So Taib is duplicating it in Baram. Another 50 to go.

    It is sad to see people willing to sell their votes for RM50 or RM100 and lose their livelihood and land. And they cannot see the connection.

    Baram Dam: Lying govt and big companies
    Joseph Tawie | August 31, 2011

    Local village headmen are being told that the government has shelved the construction of the Baram Dam.

    KUCHING: The deceitful and insidious manner by which the state government is going about with the construction of the Baram Dam has angered the Orang Ulu communities in the dam project vicinity.

    Orang Ulu National Association Miri (OUNA) chairman Pete Kallang said: “As one of those affected I just can’t understand this injustice and this outrageous and abusive exploitation.

    “Why, it could be seen as an act in complete disregard for our well-being and opinion.

    “This could be proven by the priority given to the preparatory construction activities done even before the proper Social Impact Assessment (SIA) and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) are completed or perhaps not even started and made accessible to affected and interested parties.

    “In doing this, it seems the construction of the dam is to be implemented whatever the findings or recommendations that would eventually be available if and when the EIA or SIA is done,” he said.

    Kallang added that during a recent meeting with the affected locals, he was shocked to hear the headman saying that the government would not build the dam.

    “The reaction by this particular headman reflects the effectiveness of the discreet process practised in building the dam.

    “The dam construction is one dark secret kept away from those living in Baram.

    “If it is occasionally mentioned by the proponents, the subject would be down-played, and watered-down with downright euphemism.

    Civilization under threat

    The reality, he said, was different as reported in the media.

    “We learned from newspaper reports and information dripping from the project supporters speaks of an affected area covering 38,900 hectares (389 sq km) or half of the size of Singapore island.

    “It will be constructed of around 180 meters above sea level and will generate 1,200 MW of electrical power.

    “At least 90% of the land mass which will be flooded by the dam reservoir will be the Native Customary Rights (NCR) land.

    “Relocation of the 20,000 people to make way for the Baram Dam will definitely result in a permanent social damage.

    He said the Kenyah and Kayan people traditionally live in longhouses and mass relocation of the people will no doubt spell the end of the traditional social structure.

    According to Kallang the construction of the dam is a ‘senseless’ exploitation of resources “which is primarily driven by avarice coupled with immorality’.

    “But for us who are directly and adversely affected parties, no one can blame us in thinking that this is a calculated, intentional and purposeful manoeuvre to wipe out our races.

    “The dam will not only cause the colossal environmental devastation and severe consequences on the ecosystem, but it will also rage a permanent degeneration of the ethnic identity and heritage of the natives who live in the region.

    Only big companies benefit

    Kallang, who is also the chairman of the Kenyah Association in Miri, said whilst the bulk of those affected were from the Kenyah community, the other groups affected included the Kayans and Penans.

    “These are also the same majority groups of people who are most affected by the Bakun Dam which has just been commissioned.

    He added that Baram was the least developed part of Sarawak and arguably the least developed area in the whole of Malaysia.

    “So far, the only so-called ‘developments’ which are seen in Baram are the colossal and exhaustive exploitation or extraction of the Baram natural resources.

    “These are like the reckless harvestings of the timber, extraction of lime stone, sand dredging, vast oil palm plantations and now the dam for hydropower electrical generation.

    “Practically all the beneficiaries of these so-called developments are big companies owned by big tycoons from outside the Baram.

    “Most of the workers employed at these facilities are also from outside Baram and a lot of them are foreigners.

    “To say that these “developments” bring employment is a fantasy; so we do not see how the Baram dam can bring significant economic opportunities for the locals.

    “Any spin-off employment is just a pie in the sky for the people of Baram,” he said.

  8. #8
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    Oct 2008


    The Baram River – Taib sees only the flow of money

    The climb down over the Baram Dam is very significant and everyone who has stood up in protest should accept credit. Others should take note that legitimate protest works!

    In the face of the growing outrage at the planned destruction of one of Sarawak’s most unspoilt regions and the displacement of tens of thousands of people, even the greedy Chief Minister came to the conclusion that it would be utterly foolhardy to try to fight the upcoming federal election while trying to defend the indefensible.

    Now the acquisitive old tyrant hopes that he can brush aside all questions on the subject by saying that the project is “on hold”!

    But don’t be fooled

    However, this is not a time to heave a sigh of relief. For Taib and his diminishing gang this is just a tactical retreat. They had realised that his reckless plans were threatening to break his control over some key seats in the area in the face of the growing strength of the opposition.

    They calculate that if BN can win the next election then they will have a full five years to come back and push through their plans for SCORE. Baram will be back on the agenda in no time.

    So, at every point in this election campaign Taib should be asked why the Baram Dam has not been CANCELLED instead of postponed!

    The full horror of SCORE - no less than 12 new dams to ruin every river in Sarawak

    All those 20,000 Kenya, Kelabit, Kayan and Penan who are threatened by that dam and their fellow tribespeople should resist being taken in. They have had proof that Taib has been fully prepared to turf them out of their homes and swamp the vast area that was their homeland (having stolen all the timber first).

    The fact that the old man could even CONTEMPLATE such an act should confirm to them that he can never be trusted with their votes. Some headmen will say otherwise, of course. But Taib turned the headmen from chosen representatives of the people into his own paid appointees - now headmen are supposed to say what he tells them to say or they lose their money and position.

    Cut off! Many of the displaced people in Sugai Asap can’t afford electricity – even though they were promised it for free

    The people should look instead at the disaster that faced the people of Bakun, who were promised jobs, wealth, comfort and grand new lives in return for the destruction of their region.

    Instead, they have been housed in the sink town refugee centre of Sungai Asap, many of them facing hopeless lives with inadequate education and medical services.

    What is more, the promises of free water and electricity from the dam that took their livelihoods turned out to be false. Many of these people have been cut off, because the promised ‘jobs’ have failed to provide them with the money to pay the bills (yet SESCO, run by Taib’s cousin Hamid Sepawe, turns a blind eye to the fact that the billionaire Chief Minister has cheated on his own bills by running a by-pass cable into his house!).

    Taib’s dream

    The fact that Taib, through his side-kick Planning Minister Awang Tengah, has announced that he has decided to carry on with the Baleh Dam immediately instead, should make it plain to all that Taib has no intention of giving up on his dreams to make himself the richest man on earth by exploiting the natural resources of Sarawak.

    The Baleh Dam will also affect thousands of people and destroy great areas and a wonderful stretch of river. It is just less electorally dangerous for PBB, so all Taib has done is switch the order in which he intends to build his 12 planned dams across all the main rivers of Sarawak.

    Not one of these dams serves a single demonstrable need, since the State already had excess electricity provision BEFORE the Bakun dam was completed this year.

    Taib is judge and jury of his own projects

    No one who is threatened by a dam should think for one minute that Taib has really changed his increasingly feeble mind. Neither should they imagine that there is a single way to stop the old dictator for as long as he is in power.

    Taib is the Chief Minister, Finance Minister and Planning Minister driving the whole SCORE project forward as he attempts to raise $66 billion dollars of investment in his schemes. He has also appointed himself Chairman of the Natural Resources and Environment Board, whose job it is to approve the Environmental Impact Assessment on his own plans!

    So do we think they will get approval? Do we think that the Chief Minister will approve his own self-enriching scheme? The situation is laughable, save for being so sad.

    The aluminium smelting plant placed just by people’s homes in Mukah has caused multiple health problems. The deadly side-product flourine is caused by the process.

    Taib’s dream is to turn Sarawak into a money-making machine for himself. He has already taken the timber and he has turned much of the land into palm oil plantation – an area he intends to double shortly. Now he wants to turn the polluted rivers into a vast power generation scheme.

    He knows that many countries need this level of power to smelt aluminium and that this process is very unpopular in most places in the world, because it is so dangerous and polluting. So he is now going round courting the big aluminium companies and inviting them to come and pollute what is left of what used to be one of the cleanest and most untouched areas on earth.

    Already many people of Mukah are suffering health problems because of the first such plant, which the Chairman of the Environment Board clearly thought was suitable to be placed right near to their houses and plantation areas in his own constituency.

    The rest of the people of Sarawak should look at the sufferers of aluminium poisoning in Mukah and consider the future that the Chief Minister of Sarawak has in plan for them as he walks away dripping in wealth from all the investment that will have passed through his hands.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008

    Sarawak: Ulu Bengoh Dam Screening, 8pm 8th Oct 11, Loyarburok, Bangsar

    FREE screening of new Sarawak film `Ulu Bengoh Darom Piin'

    You are welcome to attend a free screening of a new film on Bengoh rated as `an eye-opener' by Malaysiakini and a `must watch' by PKR's Latheefa Koya & Sivarasa.

    Details of the film:

    Title of film: Ulu Bengoh Darom Piin
    Synopsis: Voters in Bengoh villagers who are facing forced eviction due to the Bengoh dam returned the incumbent BN candidate who support the dam. Why? The film ventured into the car-less, handphone-less,internet-less interior of Sarawak to find out from a very isolated communities.
    Length: 25min
    Language: English and Malay (with subtitles in both)
    Director: Joachim Leong
    Producer: TV Sarawak Bebas
    Reviews: Malaysiakini here : http://hornbillunleashed.
    Film blog: http://www.bengohdry.blogspot.
    Film maker's own write up:

    Film Screening: Ulu Bengoh Darom Piin

    8 Oct(Sat), 8pm @ Pusat Rakyat LoyarBurok, 3-4, 4th Floor, Jalan Bangsar Utama 3, KL.

    Additional programs: 3 Sarawakian activists from Baram, including Mark Bujang from Brimas, will be around to share their anti-Baram dam campaign!
    DVDs are available for sales-all proceeds go towards installing mini-hydro in the new Bengoh villages.

    See you there!

    Enq. 013-5900339

    Ong BK

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Progress and Development?

    Posted Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012
    This post is also available in: Iban, Malay

    Floating homes - Is this what Taib means by progress and development for the poor people of Sarawak?

    These are the scenes they have been trying to hide, by setting up an exclusion zone to prevent NGOs and journalists from entering the region behind the Bakun Dam.

    However, Bruno Manser Fund workers have managed to breech that barrier in order to get exclusive pictures of the devastation behind the dam, which has now filled a lake the size of Singapore in the heart of Sarawak.

    For the first time we are able to bring scenes of the conditions under which the Ukit people, who are struggling to stay on their lands, are being forced to live as the rising waters have flooded their territories.
    Taib may be gleeful at the great wealth that Bakun promises to bring to companies owned by him as he does deals with foreign smelters and factories, eager for dirt cheap electricity.

    However there is little sign that any of that benefit has spread to the people who owned these lands, which were first logged of their valuable timber by Ekran, owned by Taib’s sons and their crony Ting Pek Kiing.
    Devastating poverty and squalor for the Ukit people who lost their lands to Taib's self-enriching project
    Taib forcibly moved tens of thousands of people off their lands into the squalid re-settlement camp at Sungai Asap as he set about logging the area and building the second largest dam in the world.
    The promise was that in return they would receive lives of comfort and modernity and that they would ‘progress and develop’ in line with the modern world. But, of course, the money went elsewhere.
    Bakun - yet another environmental disaster for Sarawak's jungle and its people. Taib wants to build 12 more!
    Promised free electricity and water did not eventuate and many of the people have no jobs and cannot afford even the bus to send their children to school, thus ensuring the cycle of their poverty remains.
    And of course the compensation was laughable and the quick-build housing devised by Ting Pek Kiing (now bankrupt) has already started to fall apart.

    No help from the government

    So, little surprise that so many of the local people, after ten years of misery in their ‘resettlement homes’ decided to return to their ancestral lands come what may and to defy the rising dam waters.
    No one was allowed to come and see this unfolding tragedy behind the dam. We can now see why! The BMF worker who photographed these scenes has spoken of the tragic circumstances:
    “The extent of suffering by the displaced communities is shocking. Hundreds of displaced people are living in floating homes on the Bakun impoundment. Malaysia’s showcase development project has turned into a disaster dam. An indigenous Ukit community now living in floating homes was forcibly displaced while their village and graveyards were flooded”, explained the worker Anna Meier.
    The headman of the village had explained to her their aim is to build a new longhouse onshore near our former village:
    “But we lack the funds and the government refuses to support us.”
    As their traditional farmlands have been flooded, the Ukits live from fishing, hunting and harvesting some of the trees flooded by Bakun dam. Compare their desperation to the extraordinary gains now being made by the architect of this plan, Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud.
    Cheap electricity
    Using cheap electricity from the dam, which the BN Government forcibly used the pension funds of civil servants to build, Taib is now lining up foreign smelting companies to build in Sarawak.

    End of a jungle

    With each of these contracts he makes sure that his company CMS receives huge cuts in return for his granting of permits and electricity deals. Sarawak Report will be focusing on this extraordinary corruption in upcoming reports.

    Remember, Bakun is just Stage 1 out of Stage 12 in Taib’s SCORE corridor of energy, as he makes ready to turn tens of thousands more people from their homes. They should consider the fate of the Ukit and decide whether this is the progress and development they really need, or just a get very rich quick scheme for Taib Mahmud.

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