Saturday, August 15

Don’t turn a blind eye to the people, Masing tells environmentalists


KUCHING: The state government will not allow any project to be carried out before an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is done.

In addition, all recommendations of the EIAs would be strictly adhered to during the implementation of projects, assured Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Jemut Masing.

He said he appreciated the concern of environmental NGOs, including Save Sarawak Rivers Network (Save Rivers), on the needs to save the state’s rivers.

The Minister for Infrastructure Development and Transportation also said he understood why Save Rivers opposed the building of hydroelectric power (HEP) dams, which would drown not only rivers but the flora and fauna, too.

“However, while arguing to protect our environment, we must, at the same time, balance the need to protect and improve the lives of our people. Thus, an EIA study is a must prior to any major project in Sarawak,” said Masing.

He, meanwhile, found it ironical that most of the members of the environmental NGOs who voiced out their concerns live in towns and cities and enjoying the modern amenities provided by the very mega projects they rejected.

If they resided in longhouses in Ulu Baram or Ulu Baleh, he added, their opposition to HEPs would have been more credible and believable.

“Therefore, I don’t have time for armchair critics like Save Rivers, which rejects roads and HEP projects that will allow the rural people to enjoy the benefits of 21st-century lifestyles.”

Masing said if Save Rivers did not want road access to Ulu Baram, so be it, but they should not stop the Ibans in Ulu Baleh from enjoying the amenities that Baleh Dam would bring in the future.

“I respect Save Rivers’ decision not to have roads build to Ulu Baram; but please don’t interfere with the Baleh Ibans, who need to move forward. I respect the Ulu Baram people’s decision. Please reciprocate by respecting mine – to have road connectivity to Ulu Baleh.”