Wednesday, May 31

Villagers maintain objection against RM2.8 bln dam


KOTA KINABALU: Villagers of Ulu Papar yesterday maintained their objection against the proposed RM2.8 billion Kaiduan dam, reiterating that there are better alternatives available that would not require the thousands of indigenous people to be devoid of their ancestral land.

Sipanis Lojima from Kampung Kionop, Penampang, said the proposed dam which will be thrice the size of the Babagon dam, would flood and destroy 12 square kilometers of naturally resource-rich land, which the native villagers heavily depend on for their living.

“We have been working with various agencies to conserve and preserve the precious biological resource of the area. This project would cost the next generation not only their vital resources but also their way of life and cultural heritage,” he told the Suhakam Public Hearing on Native Land Rights yesterday.

Lojima, who claimed to represent 1,000 residents from nine villages that would be affected by the construction of the dam, said the local community has flatly rejected the proposed project and would refuse to be moved to other areas.

The government had mentioned about compensating the affected families but he said, monetary compensation was never an issue with the local community, who most of all, do not want their ancestral land be taken away.

“The government has maintained, including by Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Pairin Kitingan, that the project was unavoidable in order to ensure sufficiency of water supply for Kota Kinabalu and its surrounding areas.

“We understand the need for ensuring future water supply but there are better ways. We have suggested other alternatives, but the government has not responded to them yet,” he said.

According to Lojima, the villagers have met with Penampang member of parliament Tan Sri Bernard Dompok and suggested for the government to build several water treatment plants along the Papar River in lieu of the dam.

He claimed that there are several suitable locations where hydro-generators could be emplaced to produce 100kW of power, sufficient to cater for the needs of the treatment plants.

This would not only avoid the submersion of a massive area for a single dam but also to create employment opportunities for the local communities, he said.

“The villagers are unanimous that they will support any alternative that are more acceptable,” he added.

Lojima said the villagers had also suggested for the government to focus more on effectively reducing the staggering non-revenue water (RNW) in Sabah.

The amount of water lost to inefficient piping system was too high that if the water could be saved and supplied to consumers, the need for building a new dam would not even arise for a long time, he said.

“This project is not in accordance with the World Indigenous People Declaration. It is also stated in the Land Ordinance that we the natives have the right to our land,” he stressed.

Former Suhakam vice president Tan Sri Simon Sipaun when commenting on the issue, said Kaiduan Dam was an example of a common mistake made by the government, on the basis of an assumption that the government knows better than the local communities.

He said the best solution in addressing the need of the people, more often than not, is one that takes into account the views and suggestions of the local communities.