The proposed 12 hydro electric dams in Sarawak.

Native communities directly affected the proposed Baram dams demanded to be given opportunity to review the various reports, documents pertaining the dams before any works can be started.

In a press release on Wednesday, Borneo Resources Institute (Brimas) said, Baram native communities and concerned citizens had sent a letter to the Controller of the Sarawak Natural Resources and Environmental Board (NREB) for copies of the various reports for review.

The letter which was signed by the representatives of the natives communities requested the authorities to give them opportunity and time to verify, study, comments, objects to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Social Environmental Impact Assessment and other related reports before the works on the proposed dam can start.

The letter said the natives objected to commencement of any works on the dam including construction of access roads and also the extinguishment of their native customary rights (NCR) lands pending scrutinization of all the reports.

On April 22, Baram Residents Action Committee (JTPB) organized a two day seminar on “Mega Dam Projects: Happiness or a Disaster?” at a hotel in Miri to discuss the implications of the proposed dams on the natives communities.

“During the seminar, it was clear that all of the residents that attended the seminar voice up their opposition to the proposed Baram Dams,” the statement said.

The Baram natives also expressed their fear of the repeat of the Bakun resettlement fiasco – and that resulted in them suing the government. They insisted the proposed dam project should be scrapped due to its damaging irreversible social and environmental impacts.

Dr. Welyne Jeffrey Jehom of University Malaya

The Baram natives fears and concerns aren’t baseless or mere worries as there are numerous scientific studies on the issues seems to be in support of them.

In a research by Universiti Malaya titled ‘Displacement and Coping Mechanisms: Kenyah Badeng of Sg. Asap” presented at conference in Kuching on August 2008, discovered profound negative impacts of displacement as a result of Bakun dam construction.

“The settlers, like the Kenyah-Badeng, are facing great displacement, both economic and social,” said Dr Welyne Jeffrey Jehom of Gender Studies Program, University Malaya of the research findings.

“In other words, they are deprived economically due to limited resources to generate livelihood and because of the situation, they also deprived socially; social relations within the community, among relatives and kin, are declining and changing in a different direction,” she said.

On July 23, 2008 Sarawak state government plans to build 12 hydroelectric dams, two of which proposed in Baram region (Tutoh 220MW, Baram 1000MW) to meet its future industrialisation needs.

Deputy Energy, Water and Communications Minister Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum then said the dams were necessary to meet state future energy demands.

However environmentalists locally and worldwide strongly against the Sarawak government dams plan.