No basis to glorify Bakun Dam to promote Papar dam project, says Sarawak NGO

KOTA KINABALU: There is no basis to glorify Sarawak's Bakun Dam to promote the Papar dam project here, says a Sarawak-based civil society organisation.

SAVE Rivers said Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal's recent comment that Sarawak was reaping the benefits from the controversial Bakun Dam could be seen as a lopsided remark.

“This could be based on a publicity stunt by the Sarawak state government and Sarawak Energy Bhd, without taking into account the long-standing problems and complaints of the indigenous peoples affected by the project.

“The Bakun Dam submerged an area of 700 sq km of forest, farm land and villages, where 10,000 indigenous community members from 15 villages were displaced and resettled in Sungai Asap.

“In Sungai Asap, most of them are still struggling to make a living while in their original villages, they had vast land for farming, hunting and foraging,” said SAVE Rivers chairman Peter Kallang in a statement on Monday (July 1).

He noted that the government had promised the Bakun Dam would bring job opportunities, improved standard of living and development but these remained unfulfilled promises.

“With regard to the Papar dam, we would like to say that any mega project affecting the environment, properties and the people must observe guidelines stated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

“Social and environmental well-being must never be compromised by economic objectives,” said Peter.

In the statement, Kampung Biusang villager Jackly Likinsim also noted it was unreasonable to have the dam built there.

“Why should they build a mega dam when Sabah records high amounts of rainfall, it also has Gunung Emas and the Crocker Range as natural reservoirs supplying water to the Papar river, ‘which never runs dry’.

“It does not make sense,” he added.

SAVE Rivers advocates for and empowers rural communities to protect and restore lands, rivers and watersheds through research, training and capacity building.

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