KAPIT: The Iban community from the Baleh River area is receptive to the proposed Baleh hydroelectric dam at Ulu Baleh River.
Iban community leader Temenggong Datuk Kenneth Kanyan said the community hopes the dam would bring economic growth to the area.
“This is one of the ways the state government will bring in physical development to Baleh. The project is to be implemented by Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB).
“The locals hope the government will be able to help the people in Baleh economically. We believe the mega project to take place in Baleh would change the landscape of development and benefit us from a socioeconomic stand point,” he said during a dialogue at Nanga Antawau recently.
The dialogue held by SEB aimed to inform the people of the proposed dam and to seek their approval to carry out feasibility studies such as soil drilling to test the rock structure.
Kanyan pointed out that there are many entrepreneurs from Baleh River.
“It is just that many have not had the opportunity to prove their capabilities. When given the opportunity, they would excel like their counterparts in urban centres.
“I hope the government will give priority to employ a local workforce – labourers, engineers, ration supply, transport, etc. Also set up a Baleh Education Fund to promote quality education and build an access road from Nanga Mujong to Nanga Antawau,” he said.
He stressed the access road must be built before the dam to facilitate transport.
This is to avoid problems with river transport, he said, such as what was experienced due to the impoundment of the Bakun Dam in October 2010.
He revealed that a pro tem Baleh Development Committee (BDC) has been set up under chairman Bangsa Untang.
“I hope SEB will work closely with the committee on any business opportunities. The Iban are industrious and hard-working,” added Kanyan.
Meanwhile SEB senior vice-president Stell Sindau thanked locals for their support.
“SEB is very thankful to the people of Nanga Antawau for being supportive of the proposed Baleh Hydro Dam. Bakun Dam was funded by the federal Treasury. Murum Dam is funded by the state and so is Baleh Dam.
“Under SCORE (Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy) from Tanjung Manis to Kuala Baram, over the next 20 to 30 years, many heavy industries and plants will be built. This requires intensive power. At the moment, the state requires about 1,230 MW of power. Within the next 10 years the demand is to increase tenfold,” he explained.
He added that SEB respected local traditions and customs and would keep the people informed of the project’s development.