Penans protest against Murum HEP Dam project
Miri, Sarawak: Hundreds of Penans staged a blockade against Murum hydroelectric (HEP) dam project yesterday (26th Sept) calling the government to listen to their plights with regard to the construction of the dam project. The Penans set up the blockade on the access road to the dam at Seping River Bridge, about 40km from the Murum HEP dam project site.
The Penans are from 8 villages, namely Long Wat, Long Luar, Long Tangau, Long Menapa, Long Singu and Long Malim, which are located upstream, and Long Peran and Long Jaik in the downstream of the dam project site. The Murum HEP will inundate and require the forced relocation of about 1,500 Penans as well as the 18 Kenyah-Badeng families in Long Umpa village near Long Malim in Danum River, the upper course of Murum River.
At least 200 Penans are at the blockade site carrying placards and banners bearing slogan “We Want Justice”, We Demands Our Rights”, “Stop Murum Dam”, “Sarawak Energy (SEB) No Entry”, etc. Some of the Penans have to travel for more than 100km from the remote village of Long Malim to join the other Penans at the blockade site. There were also some women and children joined the blockade.
The Penans line up to stand across the road to block the entry of the Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) and all the other companies involved in the construction of the Murum HEP dam. Some numbers of companies’ premix cement tankers, lorry trucks and trailers that transported building materials to the dam site had been totally stopped and parked at the road side.
On 25th September, about 300 representative of Penan villages in Murum area held a community meeting at Penan Long Jaik village. At the meeting, the Penans have come up with the Open Memorandum, detailing their issues, problems and demands to the Prime Minister YAB Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak and the Sarawak Chief Minister YAB Pehin Seri Abdul Taib Mahmud.
Surang Alung, Chairman of Pelieran-Murum Penan Affairs Committee (PEMUPA) stated that “the community are protesting against the negligence of the government to response to the demands as proposed by the Penans affected by Murum dam project”. He said the government has failed to consult them on all aspects pertaining to the development of the project. “We have to stand up and assert for our rights as our problems, issues and demands have been neglected for so long by the government”, he added.
The Murum hydroelectric dam project involves the construction of a 944 MW hydroelectric dam. It is the 1st of the 12 new more mega dams to be built by the State Government of Sarawak. The work on the dam has been going on since mid-2008. The dam site is on the Murum River, a tributary of Balui River, about 80 km upstream of the Bakun Hydroelectric project in Belaga District, Kapit Division of Sarawak.
The Murum dam is a 141-metre-high Roller-Compacted Concrete (RCC) dam that would be 547 metres above sea level, with a length of crest of 473 metres and crest width of 7 metres. Width of dam along riverbed is 75 metres. It will flood 24,500 hectares (245km2) of customary land and forest of the Penan villages. The dam catchment area is 275,000 hectares (2,750 km2) of mainly Usun Apau Plateau, the ancestral land of Indigenous communities in Sarawak.
The Sarawak Government is solely having vested interest in the project with the project proponent, theSarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) where 65 percent shares owned by the state government of Sarawak. The Murum dam project had been awarded to China’s Three Gorges Project Corporation. The estimated cost of the project is RM3 billion (875 million USD).
The progress of work on the major structures of the dam is about 70% completed. Its schedule of completion is by 2013.
Note: Sarawak Conservation Alliance for Natural Environment (SCANE) will keep you inform on the progress of the situation, news and any updates from the blockade site from time to time.
News Released by:
Sarawak Conservation Alliance for Natural Environment (SCANE)