Long Lawen folk don’t regret refusing to move to Bakun project resettlement site

Malaysia


Long Lawen village head Gara Jalong.

KUCHING: The Long Lawen community has no regrets about refusing to relocate to the Sungai Asap resettlement site after the Bakun dam was built about 20 years ago.

Village head Gara Jalong said back in 1998 they had refused to resettle in Sungai Asap due to the government’s failure in providing them with land for farming.

“Also, we did not want to give up our ancestors’ lands,” he said when met at the Clean Energy Collaboration conference here today.

Therefore, they decided to move to higher ground and build the village of Long Lawen.

“Even though we are just above the Bakun reservoir, we do not get access to electricity in our village from the dam,” he said.

However, thanks to a group of NGOs, they have managed to receive electricity supply from their own micro-hydro technology.

“We have been using it for the last 17 years,” he said.

He compared their situation to that of the Penan community which was resettled by the government at its native customary rights’ (NCR) land, known as the Tegulang resettlement site, after the construction of the Murum dam near his village.

“They received electricity from the Murum dam and I think that if they can get it, we can get it too,” he said, adding that the government had also yet to compensate them for the land taken from them to relocate the Penans.

Jalong said they too had been asking Sarawak Energy Berhad to provide them with electricity from the Murum dam since 2013.

“We are currently facing insufficient supply of electricity due to the increase in population,” he added.

According to him, they also had to travel about 100km to Sungai Asap as schools and clinics had been relocated there after the Bakun dam was constructed.

“The Belaga district is nearer to our village but we rarely go there due to the poor condition of the road,” he added.

He said another issue they faced was the entry of a timber company into their village.

“We have been instructed by the forest department to not let them enter into our village.

“Our longhouse is located in the community forest reserve and it used to be 9,800 hectares of land. Now, the community forest reserve is left with 6,166 hectares of land after part of it was taken by the timber company,” he claimed.

Currently, he said they had a total of 35,133 hectares of NCR land, which included the community forest reserve.

More than 160 participants, including people from over 30 villages in Sarawak and other parts of Malaysia attended the two-day conference to discuss issues on renewable energy systems.



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