MIRI: The government’s ultimate goal, if it ever builds the proposed Baram Dam in 2018, is to bring integrated development to greatly improve the living standard of the people in the area.
Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry, Datuk Jacob Dungau Sagan said the project too is to ensure that Sarawak has enough power for its development programme so that it could become part of the nation’s high-income nation.
“The bottom line is their life (the affected people) would be much better than what it is now. That is what we want – to eradicate poverty, have better facilities, new towns flourishing, new schools being built, water and electricity supplies, clinics and I think this is what the government is thinking,” stressed Jacob to reporters here yesterday after presenting government grants totalling RM251,000 for 17 projects.
He regretted that the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the opposition had painted a negative picture on the proposed project even though it is only at the proposal stage, adding that the relevant studies are still being carried out.
Jacob, who is the Member of Parliament for Baram, assured that the Baram Hydro Community Consultative Committee headed by him will work closely with the government in ensuring that when they do the resettlement plan, and implementing the project, the interest of the people must be given top priority.
“We are there to ensure that the interest of the people there are given top priority because from what the NGOs and the opposition are doing at the moment, they are painting a very negative picture of the dam and so on,” he said.
Jacob pointed out that the proposed Baram dam was one of the efforts to eradicate the current high rate of poverty especially in Ulu Baram. It was also to provide employment to the people, adding that the timber industry is a sunset industry while oil palm project is not feasible in the interior area that is lacking good infrastructure.
“But we have resources of the river that could be converted into energy to help the state to have enough energy at least that is our contribution to the state. At the same time we want the authorities to look into the welfare of the people and this is very important and that is why we established the consultative committee,” he stressed.
Jacob said the committee involves the Federation of the Orang Ulu Malaysia (FORUM) that consists of all the associations and community leaders in the area and also intellectuals in the areas and in towns, the headmen and the people on the ground, the village development and security committees.
The committee is to serve the interest of the affected people so that people cannot categorically say the government is forcing the project on them. This is not the case.
So far the committee has established a mini-lab in Kuching with the cooperation of the State Planning Unit, where they have given their recommendations on what the government should do.
Jacob added that they are currently refining the recommendations and doing comparative studies with areas where dams have been built like in Murum, Bakun and Batang Ai so as to assist the government to plan and make sure the full implementation of the programme will benefit the affected people.
Thus, Jacob urged the people in Baram to cooperate with the consultative committee and government in finding the most effective ways of implementing the project that is meant to
benefit them too.
The proposed RM4-billion Baram Hydro-electric Dam Project is part of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy project.
Its reservoir will cover an area of 39,000 hectares where at least 20,000 people from 25 longhouses will be resettled when the dam is built.