Drone-territorial mappings does the trick for Penans

Jok (seated fifth from right) at a community-mapping forum in Miri.

MIRI: Aerial territorial community-maps done using drones and GPS devices for the native communities are legal documents recognised by law - as can be seen by how the Penans of Long Tevenga had used them to stop loggings activities in their forests.

Society for Rights of Indigenous Communities of Sarawak (SCRIPS) said more native communities in Sarawak must use aerial mappings and global positioning systems to stake official claims to their native land.

SCRIPS secretary-general Michael Jok said the Long Tevenga Penans deep in interior northern Sarawak have successfully stopped a timber firm from continuing logging operations in the forests around their settlement.

These indigenous natives used a two-pronged strategy to stop the loggings.

The first was by building a house across the main logging road to block logging trucks and excavators.

The second was to get the help of social activist group Bruno Manser Foundation to carry out aerial and ground mapping of the forests to show evidence that the Penans have ancestral rights over their forests.

“Bruno Manser Foundation has sophisticated equipments including drones and GPS locaters.

I have seen their equipments being used. They are very accurate and can take sharp and detailed pictures and land boundary marks like rivers and mountains,” Jok told The Star yesterday.

He met 50 native longhouse chiefs to brief them about the community mappings effort by SCRIPS.

The Long Tevenga Penans last week stopped a timber firm from continuing logging in forests surrounding their village.

They set up physical blockades to stop the timber trucks from entering their forests.

They also used aerial maps and GPS to convince the Sarawak Forestry that they have ancestral rights to the Long Tevenga forests.

Sarawak social activist Peter Kallang said the two methods combined proved effective.

“The Penans blocked the timber access road with a big house. The Bruno Manser Foundation and the Long Tevenga Penans then managed to compile 23 territorial maps.

“These maps helped convince the Sarawak Forestry Department to issue an order to stop the logging,” he said.

“The order means the logging company cannot enter the Long Tevenga forests without the consent of the Penans there.

“This is an important development as it shows that with determination and mapping evidences we Sarawak natives can protect our land and forests from private developers,” Kallang said.

Kallang is chairman of environmental group Save Sarawak Rivers.

Bruno Manser Foundation was formed by Swiss human rights activist Bruno Manser and his family.

Manser is said to have gone missing in the jungles of northern Sarawak about 10 years ago.

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