MIRI –The people of Baram gave a cautious welcome to the announcement about the moratorium of the proposed Baram-1 Hydroelectric (HEP) Dam. While the affected villagers acknowledge that the measure taken by the government is welcomed, but at the same time they highlight that there are a number of outstanding issues related to the proposed dams which must be resolved before the people can believe the goodwill and sincerity of the government’s gesture.
The announcement about the moratorium for works on the Baram dam was first announced by Sarawak’s Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem in Long Lama, Baram on the 4th August this year. The Chief Minister mentioned it again when he was interviewed by the Malaysian TV3 on the occasion of Malaysia Day on the 16th September 2015. At both announcements, Adenan said that the construction of the Baram dam has not been finalised and in the meantime his government is willing to listen to both those who are against and those who are supporting the proposed dam.
Meanwhile SAVE Rivers have been getting reactions to Adenan’s announcement from those who could be adversely affected by the proposed Baram-1 dam. A dialogue was also held in Long San, Baram to get feedback. The two days event on 4th to the 5th of September in the Ulu Baram village was organised by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) and it was opened for all those affected. The response from those at the dialogue was unanimously against the proposed Baram dam and hope that the government would abandon plans for constructing the dam.
Commenting on the feedback from the dialogue and the general feedback of those affected, Mr. Peter Kallang, the chairman of SAVE Rivers commented, “While the people are really glad to hear that there is a moratorium on Baram-1 HEP dam project, the great sense of anxiety is still there. 1st is the status of their native lands which are already gazetted for the dam construction. 2nd it is because of the on-going logging activities carried out with valid ‘Salvage Logging’ permit issued by the government in anticipation of the dam.” He explained that the people would only be confortable if the gazette and the permit are revoked.
In stopping the preparatory works for the Baram-1 HEP, the villagers have maintained two blockades points which will mark their second year anniversary in October this year. Commenting the Chief Minister’s suggestion that the blockades should be removed in a measure of good faith, Peter said, “To start with, the blockades do not affect the normal usage of the public or main road. Barriers are only placed at the entrance for roads leading to sites for the dam’s preparatory works. Since there is a moratorium imposed on the dam there is no reason why anyone should go there. ” Peter added that the camp set by the blockaders at the two blockades are required to accommodate the villagers who monitor and make sure that there is no logging carried out on the dam site, since logging activities are still going on unimpeded in the Baram basin.