MIRI: The state government has unofficially given the “green light” for the construction of the controversial RM4bil Baram hydro-electric dam project.
The only major thing left is the approval of the yet-to-be-tabled Social Impact Assessment and Environmental Impact Assessment reports of the project.
The decision to “go-ahead” with the project was said to have been made known at a meeting attended by state key leaders and Sarawak Regional Corridor Development Authority (Recorda) board of directors, chaired by Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem in Kuching two days ago. Also present was Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu and Recorda chief executive officer Tan Sri Wilson Baya Dandot.
During the meeting, it is learnt that the state government had expressed its ‘firmness’ for the Baram Dam construction to go ahead.
The Star yesterday spoke to Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau for his comments on widespread talk that the state government had actually given the project the go-ahead during a meeting in Kuching.
Ngau, in response, confirmed to have received a call from Baya informing him of the state government’s firm decision to undertake the project.
“Yes, Tan Sri Wilson called me yesterday and said that he had attended a very important meeting with Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu and other key state leaders.
“The top level meeting chaired by the Chief Minister touched on very important issues concerning the upcoming development projects that are to be implemented in Sarawak, and central to this is the construction of the Baram Dam in northern Sarawak.
“The meeting discussed the plans for the creation of a new township in Baram to house the affected people who will have to be resettled for the construction of the Baram Dam.
“The state government has firmed itself to undertake the project for the transformation of the whole of Baram in the social and economic spheres. My task now as Telang Usan assemblyman is to help disseminate this information to the Baram populace on what is to come for them.
Ngau said the creation of the new township in Baram and the construction of the Baram Dam would come together.
He said the projects’ blueprint would be drawn up soon, adding: “I will go to all the settlements in Baram to explain to the people in detail of what the future holds for them.”
He said personally he felt that with the project to go on line the affected people could look forward to a better future and that their lives would improve vastly in the coming years.
Ngau, who is also Baram Barisan Nasional youth chief, said: “Yes, it can be said that the Baram Dam project is confirmed.” Asked whether the decision would spark off massive protests on the ground, he said that it was only the opposition that wanted to see this happening.
“Opposition parties will definitely take advantage and twist the whole thing to instill fear and anger among the Baram people.
“I, on my part, will go around and explain the good side of the project to the people of Baram and I hope they will understand and see the project’s positive sides. I want the Baram people to be kept aware of the latest issues at all times with regards to the implementation process of the hydro-dam project.”
“It will be good if the state government can complete the blueprint for the new township and the resettlement scheme fast so that the people of Baram can be kept informed and updated,” he said.
Asked if there was any decision on how the state government would approach the relocation of the massive number of affected people, Ngau said that the specifics on the relocation issue on the ground had not been decided yet.
At least 20,000 people from some 25 settlements are expected to be uprooted to give way to the project.
“Sooner or later, we will have to discuss this with the affected population, but rest assured, the state government has their welfare in mind and we will handle the matter properly and to the satisfaction of the people of Baram,” he said.
Asked when the Social Impact Assessment and Environmental Impact Assessment reports could be made available for viewing by the public, he said at the moment, these reports were still at the first round of compilation.
The Baram dam, to be sited between Long Naah and Long Kesseh, some 200km inland from Miri city, is one of the 11 new hydro-electric dams projects that were approved by the state government during the time when current Head of State Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud was the Chief Minister.
The first of the new dams was Murum which is being completed now.
Baram dam looks set to be the second one in the pipeline.