Today, the Baram villagers, resisting the proposed Baram dam, mark the 500th days since the blockades were launched. On the 23rd October 2013, villagers from 30 settlements in the Baram district set up blockades in Long Lama and Long Keseh to foil works on the Baram dam project. The blockaders evicted workers who were carrying out the preparatory works for the proposed dam and their machineries from site. Based on the plan by Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB) the proposed site for the Baram dam is a location between Long Keseh and Na’ah which is about 250 Km from Miri city. Since the start, the two blockades have been manned by various villagers from all over the Baram basin.
Preparatory works carried out for the dam which triggered the blockades were geological surveys, construction of access roads and preparation of quarries facilities. The works were carried out although the mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was not completed nor was there any approval sought from the land owners of the Native Customary Right (NCR) land used for the works. The NCR lands belong to the villagers in the area, who were angered by the unethical conducts of the dam builders especially the intrusion into their land and farms.
Beside the preparatory works, logging companies are still rushing to harvest the timber in Ulu Baram in anticipation of the Baram dam project. During the last 500 days, the blockaders have been confronted by these companies and their representatives who claimed to have legitimate logging permits for normal logging activities. On top of that, challenges were also given by the Sarawak Forestry Department and armed police personnels who for a period stationed their officers at the blockade site in Long Keseh and forcefully took down the road barrier. The barricade at Long Keseh was taken down by the loggers and forestry officers twelve times within the last 500 days and each time this happened, it was installed back by the blockaders.
Commenting on action of the forest department which was supporting the logging activities, one of the land owners and blockaders from Na’ah, Anyie Eng said, “The forestry department is a government body, they should serve us with integrity. They are supposed to abide by the law and eradicate wrong doings. But here they are intruding into our land; they exploited our timber and land bare and they even used their own personnels to remove the road barriers we set up to protect our land.” Anyie Eng and his group from Na’ah and Long Keseh have filed a lawsuit in Miri against the government over their native land. Baram dam is one of the twelve mega dams which the Sarawak state government and Sarawak Energy Bhd proposed to be built under the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) plan. SCORE which is purport to make Sarawak a developed state by the year 2030.
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SAVE Rivers is a grassroots network of indigenous communities and civil society organizations in Sarawak, working to protect human rights and stop destructive dams in the state.