Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Damn the Dams

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Very few Malaysians know about SCORE. The Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy or simply known as SCORE, is just one of the five regional development corridors being developed and it is supposedly a grandiose plan to transform Sarawak into a developed State by year 2020. A total of twelve mega-dams have been planned – the Murum Dam project crept into the news only because of protests mounted by the affected natives. Even so, you don't read about it in the mainstream news.

The 944MW Murum Dam is to be built on the Murum River, at the upper catchment of the Balui River where the controversial Bakun Dam was built. This was the second in the series of hydroelectric dams announced by the government, to be built in Sarawak. It would flood some 245 km2 of the Penans’ traditional hunting and fishing grounds, sacred and burial sites, farmlands, crops and fruit trees and the homes of at least 6 settlements of about 2,000 people.

But the project is already 70 percent complete. The Penans have set up blockades near the dam site since September 26, 2012.

The Penans know they cannot stop it. They are now seeking RM500,000 for each family for loss of ancestral land, 30,000 hectares of land for every village, 25 hectares for every farming family, education for their children, a community development fund and rights to their land that is not submerged by the dam.

Until today, they have not received any payment.

The Penan blockade against the Murum Dam is another chapter in the history of the marginalized and sidelined indigenous peoples of Sarawak.

The Murum Penan communities are among the most impoverished in Malaysia. They have traditionally been hunter-gatherers but shifted to a more settled, agriculture-based way of life approximately 40 years ago.They rely on subsistence-based farming and hunting, fishing and gathering of forest products and the occasional sale of in-season fruit. Their livelihood has been adversely affected by low farm productivity and rapidly declining forest resources because of plantation and dam building projects

Malaysians, please spread the word because we should know that this diminishing community of fellow Malaysians across the South China Sea are being exploited. If nearly everything is taken from them – how will they carry on? Their lives will amount to nothing. They will be devoid of dignity. They will continue to suffer.

The Penan communities affected by the Murum Dam have shown a commitment to defend their rights and Malaysians must give them full solidarity and support their struggle in all possible ways.

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