KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 — Sarawak villagers have won their bid to regain native customary land that had been earmarked for the construction of the Baram dam, according to their lawyers.
The decision meant that the nearly 20,000 villagers from up to 30 villages will now be allowed to re-enter the land that had previously been gazetted for acquisition under Sarawak Land Code to facilitate the mega-dam in the state.
The lawyer representing the group, Harrison Ngau, was informed by the state Attorney-General’s Office on March 15 that the two gazettes issued in 2013 and 2015 for the acquisition were repealed in February.
“I congratulate the people of Baram for this great success and I pray that they will continue to fight for their rights and protection of the environment,” Peter Kallang, the chairman of the SAVE Rivers conservation group, said in a statement.
“I would also like to thank the Chief Minister Adenan Hj. Satem who has heard the people’s voice. He announced the moratorium on works for the dam on 30th July 2015 and now he has returned the land. I hope that the chapter on Baram dam is now permanently closed,” added the Batu Lintang assemblyman.
The Baram dam — which was part of the state government’s ambitious plan to build 12 dams under its Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) — drew strong opposition from local communities, who at one point erected barricades to stop surveyors and road builders accessing the site.
The aim of the dam network had been to produce up to 30,000MW of electricity to meet the demand of power-hunger heavy industries like aluminium smelters that will be set up within the SCORE area.
The hydroelectric Baram dam was proposed during the administration of former Sarawak chief minister Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud, who is now the state’s governor.
Taib’s successor, Tan Sri Adenan Satem, last year announced that the state government decided to call off the project due to opposition from affected natives and other residents.
Adenan must face a state election this year, as the Sarawak legislative assembly's mandate will expire in June.