KUCHING: The impoundment of the Murum Hydro Electric Power (HEP) Dam began when the outlet river diversion tunnel was closed at 8.25pm on Saturday.
Confirming the start of the impoundment of the dam a source from Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) said the whole process would take about a year for the water to reach enough capacity for the HEP dam to produce power.
The RM4 billion Murum HEP is the third dam built in the state after the ones at Batang Ai and Bakun.
Murum dam capable of producing 944 MW of power is located 70km up stream of Bakun.
The flooding of the dam area entails the 353 Penan families living in the area to be resettled in nearby areas at Metalun and Tegulang.
SEB has announced recently that 89 families from Long Wat had already moved to their new homes at Tegulang, Murum on Sep 9. The Remaining 264 families will be moving in soon.
Commenting on the impoundment, Senior Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Jemut Masing said the affected Penans must be willing to change for the better and not be instigated by outsiders especially certain NGOs.
“The Penans affected by the Murum HEP Dam must become willing partners of change and the government is there to assist them.
“Furthermore the clock is ticking and they cannot turn it back. This is the best opportunity for them to change for the better,” Masing told The Borneo Post after a courtesy call on him by former national Badminton singles player Ong Owe Hock at his residence here yesterday.
When asked whether the affected Penans in Murum were aware of the date of impoundment, Masing said they had been kept informed of the timing of the impoundment which was done according to the schedule of the whole project.
“We are not hiding anything from them, they have been informed about the procedures and progress of the dam,” said Masing who is also Minister of Land Development.
Besides providing housing and other facilities and infrastructure such as roads, clinics and schools, the Murum resettlement scheme also took into consideration the needs of the elderly Penans who still prefer to have to hunt and gather food in the forest by giving them two areas in Tegulang and Metalun with a combined area of some 20,000 hectares to maintain their nomadic lifestyle.
“It will take a generation to change. So we are providing the older generation a new place to carry on with their way of life as well as new opportunity for the younger generation to adapt to modern lifestyle,” said Masing.
Meanwhile, Masing, who is also an anthropologist by training, hoped that the next dam to be developed would be the Baleh HEP which would have no problem with resettlement.
“As I have said before, the government should implement the Baleh HEP Dam before going to Baram, not because Baleh is in my area but we will not be going against so many NGOs who will stir up the people there to go against the project.
“So, to me, let the Baleh HEP Dam be developed first, then we go to Baram. Let the people of Baram see for themselves what benefits they will get if the project was implemented there (in Baram),” said Masing who also Baleh assemblyman.