Community support for Baram dam

A Federation of Orang Ulu Association Malaysia delegation conveys backing for project at a meeting with state leaders

KUCHING: After initial misgivings, the people who will be affected by the Baram Hydro Electric Project (HEP) have collectively agreed to give their support to its implementation.

This message was conveyed to the state government at a meeting between representatives of Federation of Orang Ulu Association Malaysia (Forum) which represents nine ethnic groups dwelling mainly in the Baram district and Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu at the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) complex here, yesterday.

The dam project which will affect about 10,000 people from 24 longhouses in the area had faced objections from them as they feared they would be adversely affected by the resettlement.

However, they changed their mind and supported the project after realising the benefits it would bring to them.

Speaking to the press on behalf of his people after the meeting, Orang Ulu community leader Temenggong Pahang Ding said: “We see it as an opportunity for the people of the area, and view it as a catalyst for rural transformation in Baram.”

Forum president Gerawat Gala said the project would provide new opportunities for residents in the district to improve their lot.

“It is our request to the state government that those affected could be assured of a better future, with improved livelihood through the implementation of the hydroelectric project, which will accelerate development in Baram,” he added.

Jabu who is also the Rural and Land Development Minister disclosed that the people had also agreed that only one committee headed by Baram MP Datuk Jacob Dungau Sagan and Senator Lihan Jok as the deputy chairman would represent the population affected by the Baram HEP.

“The committee will be working with the state government steering committee on matters regarding the project, the affected families and villagers and other related agencies,” he said.

On resettlement of the affected villagers, Jabu said a 21st century village would be built for them near the Murum and Bakun area.

“The proposed site, located somewhere near Usun Apau is actually near to the ancestral land of the Kayan and Kenyah community. The government will look into other matters as well such as adequate compensation and improved livelihood and opportunities for the people.”

Jabu said that a discussion would be held with Sarawak Energy Berhad to train locals to work at the project site.

“We will identify what sort of jobs will be available and ensure the locals will have the opportunity to work and gain from the project,” he added.

Asked on the current project progress, Jabu said that it was still in the preliminary stage and things had been moving smoothly according to plan.

Jabu commended Forum for supporting the project and expressed his relief that the locals now supported the implementation of the project adding that while they would be duly compensated for the land acquired, the more important thing is the long-term benefits that they would get from the project.

The Baram HEP, which will be half the size of Bakun Dam is expected to generate around 940 to 1,000 megawatt of power.

The Orang Ulu community leaders who are members of Forum accompanied by Assistant Minister of Culture and Heritage Liwan Lagang and Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau later adjourned to a closed-door meeting with Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud in the same building.

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