Indigenous Malaysians block road as controversial rainforest dam begins to fill – ‘The plight of the Penan is a fundamental example of corporate greed steamrolling human rights’Posted by Jim at Sunday, September 29, 2013
25 September 2013 (borneoproject.org) – It has been a tragic week for the people affected by the Murum Dam in Sarawak. Sarawak Energy has begun the impoundment of the Murum dam, starting a process that threatens to drown over 2,750 sq. kilometers of forest and traditionally-owned land. We have also heard from our partners at SAVE-Rivers that the Penan village of Long Wat has been burned down by Sarawak Energy workers, and communities are reporting loss of boats due to the flooding from the impoundment.
The Penan of Murum are taking action. Starting the week of September 9th, they have renewed the non-violent blockade of the road leading to the Murum Dam. Over 100 Penan leaders have been stopping all traffic in a last-ditch effort to get the government to respect their rights and to provide reasonable compensation for the loss of their lands and homes.
This is the second blockade that the Penan of the Murum area have erected. In September 2012, the Penan of Long Wat village — the village that has now been burned — held a blockade that delayed construction of the dam for over a month. While the state-owned power company, Sarawak Energy, promised the Penan compensation and prime land for relocation, they have failed to deliver one their promises. Instead, they are relocating the Penan people to swampy areas that are not able to support their traditional agricultural practices.
The Murum Dam is one of the 12 dams that the Sarawak government plans to build on Sarawak’s rivers. Currently, there has been no demand or purchasers identified for the power that will be generated by these destructive dams. During this May’s International Hydropower Association conference, the Sarawak government highlighted the Murum Dam as an example of the best practices in their plans for massive dam expansion across Sarawak. A representative from Murum Dam was brought to the conference to speak about how he came to support the dam. Unfortunately, for the Penan of Long Wat village, the government’s “best practices” amounted to nothing but broken promises.
Now the Penan are standing up for their rights again. According to SAVE-Rivers, the state-wide network of anti-dam activists, the Penan are demanding RM 50,000 per family (about US $15,500), as well as 25 hectares of land, a 10 percent share in the profits from the Murum Dam, and full compensation for their lost land and resources.
Contact: Brihannala Morgan
Director, The Borneo Project
26 September 2013
(borneoproject.org) – Murum, Sawarak, Malaysian Borneo: Over 100 Penan leaders are blockading traffic in a last-ditch effort to get the government and the state owned-power company, Sarawak Energy Berhad, to respect their rights and provide appropriate compensation for the loss of their lands and homes. Carrying signs, and with food and bedding, they have taken over the only road to and from the dam site and are not allowing any traffic through. This dam, one of 12 mega dams planned across the region, will drown over 2,750 sq, kilometers of forest and traditionally owned land.
This is the second blockade that the Penan of the Murum area have erected; the first blockade was in September 2012 when the Penan of Long Wat village held a blockade that delayed construction of the dam for over a month. Sarawak Energy promised the Penan compensation and prime land for relocation, but failed to deliver on their promises. Instead, they are relocating the Penan to swampy areas that are unable to support their traditional agricultural practices and way of life.
Just before impoundment began earlier this month, the longhouse of Long Wat village was burned by Sarawak Energy workers. Details are still forthcoming, yet it appears that this case of arson was committed without the knowledge of the villagers.
“The world needs to stand up and take action against such rampant abuse of power,” said Brihannala Morgan, director of the Borneo Project. “The plight of the Penan is a fundamental example of corporate greed steamrolling human rights.”
According to SAVE-Rivers, the statewide network of anti-dam activists, the Penan are demanding RM 50,000 per family (about US $15,500), as well as 25 hectares of land, a 10% share in the profits from the Murum Dam, as well as full compensation for their lost land and resources.
The Murum Dam is one of 12 mega dams slated to be built in Malaysian Borneo by 2020. The dam will produce 944 MW of energy, energy that currently has no purchasers or identified demand. On-the-ground efforts, such as SAVE-Rivers, work to coordinate indigenous-led resistance against dam expansion and massive resettlement.
About The Borneo Project – For over twenty years, the Borneo Project has worked with indigenous communities to protect the rainforest and support fights for land rights. Learn more at www.borneoproject.org.