LOGGING activities and the development of oil palm plantations are seriously threatening the environment and the livelihood of indigenous people in Sarawak, a grassroots network said.
The Sarawak Native Customary Rights Land Network (Tahabas), a group of about 30 indigenous peoples organisations, showed up at the International Media and Environment Summit (IMES) on Friday to voice its concern.
Wearing orang-utan masks, some 100 Tahabas members carried placards which read Oil palm plantation and logging activities destroy communal forest, Our water resources are polluted by logging and oil palm plantations and We call upon government and the world to respect our rights to our land and to protect our environment, among others.
Tahabas president Augustine Bagat Sikut said the network had asked IMES organisers to be allowed to attend the summit although its members could not afford the RM500 registration fee, but did not receive a response.
He said logging activities and large-scale oil palm plantations were threatening the livelihood of indigenous Sarawakians in rural areas by encroaching on native customary rights (NCR) land and water catchment areas.
Seven million hectares of hill forest is under logging concessions which have caused massive deforestation. Logging activities are still continuing and further threatening the territories and natural resources of indigenous communities, he said.
He urged the state government to protect native customary rights to land, the forest and the environment; to publicly declare the size of logging concessions in the state and the names of those holding the concessions; to take action against logging companies conducting illegal logging activities on NCR land; and to meet transparently with longhouse and village communities on NCR land development schemes.
He added that Tahabas was willing to work with the state government in finding solutions to these issues.
Tahabas advisor Raymond Abin said the group was appealing to the Government to take mesaures before the state was faced with environmental calamities.
Our land is being targeted for oil palm and forest plantations and hundreds of thousands of hectares of land are threatened by development projects.
We have sent a memorandum to the government and written thousands of letters, but there has been no response from the government on the problems raised, he said.
He made it clear that the group was not against development but wanted the right to decide the type and scale of development needed.
We want proper schools, proper healthcare and clean water supply, which has been polluted by logging, he said.