Humanitarian crisis in Sarawak as dam empoundment destroys Penan villages - Long Wat burned down in suspected arson
According to community sources contacted by Sarawak's SAVE Rivers network, the outlet river diversion tunnel has been closed on Saturday night. More than 100 Penan are currently protesting at the dam site.
We have also been informed that the Penan village of Long Wat has burnt down in a case of suspected arson by Sarawak Energy workers. The communities are also reporting the loss of a number of boats due to the flooding of the dam impoundment. An estimated 1500 Penan and 80 Kenyah natives will lose their homes due to the Murum dam impoundment which will flood 24'500 hectares of their lands and forests.
The Bruno Manser Fund calls on the UN Special Rapporteur for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, to urgently intervene with the Malaysian government and to ask for an immediate stop of the Murum dam impoundment. The international community is urged to pressure the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to put an end to the humanitarian crisis in Sarawak and to properly address all outstanding resettlement issues with the affected indigenous communities.
The Murum dam construction is the first of a series of twelve dams planned by the Sarawak state government in an unprecedented mega dam construction program affecting tens of thousands of indigenous people in the Borneo rainforest. Alone the planned Baram dam, whose construction is about to start after the completion of the Murum dam, is estimated to cause the forced displacement of 20'000 people. Hundreds of square miles of tropical rainforests and biodiverse native farmlands are threatened to be flooded
The Murum dam construction history is connected to a series of scandals that are hard to imagine anywhere in the world outside Sarawak. The dam construction was started under a cloud of secrecy even before the realization of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and a social impact study. Most public contracts within the dam project were given to companies linked to the family of Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, such as construction conglomerates Naim Cendera, Cahya Mata Sarawak and power transmittor Sarawak Cable.
The construction of Murum dam would not have been possible without support from Western engineers and managers. Hydro Tasmania, a state-owned Australian power supplier, seconded engineer Andrew Pattle to direct the Murum dam construction. Torstein Dale Sjotveit, a Norwegian national, oversees the dam construction in his role as CEO of Sarawak Energy. Sjotveit has repeatedly been accused of supporting the Taib family's corrupt practicves and has been reported to Malaysia's Anti Corruption Commission MACC by local activists. The Bruno Manser Fund will hold Western companies, engineers and managers responsible for their role in the Sarawak government's human rights violations related to the dam projects
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For more information on the Sarawak dam constructions and related corruption, check our campaign site for the following Bruno Manser Fund reports:
- Sold Down the River. How Sarawak Dam Plans Compromise the Future of Sarawak's Indigenous Communities (2012)
- Complicit in Corruption. Taib Mahmud's Norwegian Power Man (2013)
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