MIRI: A protest by Sarawak natives against forest clearing by a plantation firm is picking up steam on the fringes of the Mulu National Park in interior northern Sarawak.
The natives from the Penan and Berawan ethnic communities have erected human barriers on the road leading to Bateu Bungan village.
Penan chief Ukau Lupong is leading the protest, comprising about 300 natives.
The Bateu Bungan village is located at the boundary of Mulu National Park, which is home to the largest caves in the world.
Mulu was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site about 20 years ago.
The latest protest there has attracted the attention of the Bruno Manser Foundation, an international environmental group based in Switzerland that was formed by the family of missing activist Bruno Manser.
Manser disappeared in the northern Sarawak jungles more than a decade ago. He had been involved in anti-logging protests in northern Sarawak.
The foundation has sent observers to Bateu Bungan to monitor the latest blockade, which was set up after workers of a plantation company started clearing forests near the national park to build roads to facilitate the opening of the oil palm plantation.
Local social activist Peter Kallang, who is chairman of Sarawak-based environmental group Save Sarawak Rivers, said he had also received information about the Mulu protest.
“The protest and blockade are getting more intense since forest clearings started last month.
“The Penans and Berawans said they must stop the plantation workers from opening more land.
“The ecosystem of Mulu National Park may be affected if the plantation project proceeds,” he said.
Kallang added that he had heard the plantation project might involve forest cutting and land clearing of up to 4,400ha.