This one has to take the cake: The Sarawak Chief Minister says the building of more hydroelectric dams can reverse rural-urban migration and transform the infrastructure of rural Sarawak.
Suddenly dams are being touted as the solution for rural development. If that’s the case, we should build more dams all over the peninsula as well, shouldn’t we?
The irony is that all these wonderful dams are displacing thousands of natives from their customary land. If these dams are so good for them, why are the natives consistently protesting against these dams that will submerge their land? Has anyone really consulted them – I mean real consultation – about what they think? And what do they really think about the so-called ‘resettlement schemes’?
The Penan, many of them displaced by dams, are among the most marginalised communities in the country. Where do they go to earn a livelihood after being displaced from their land?
By a happy ‘coincidence’, it doesn’t hurt that Taib’s family-owned CMS is involved in the supply of steel and cement.
This report is from the Borneo Post:
Pointing this out, Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said the population in the interior were mostly children under 12 years old and very old people who could not be very productive.
Citing Ulu Baram as an example, he said most of the young people had drifted to Miri and other urban centres in search for jobs.
Taib added he was very concerned about the situation as this was also happening in other rural areas.
“Ulu Baram, Ulu Kapit will never be developed if not for the construction of the dams, in fact these areas are already losing their population, I’m not going to allow this kind of thing to happen forever, we have to reverse the trend.”
Thus, he pointed out that dams were built not only for the sake of producing electricity but also for the spin-off impact of creating jobs, enhancing local industries like eco-tourism and development of basic infrastructure in the interior rural areas.
“If we don’t have any dams, I don’t think there is justification to have a road to Belaga, road to anyway in the interior,” said Taib when officiating at the High Performance Team 2013 gathering at ParkCity Everly Hotel here yesterday.
He disclosed that the state government planned to build two new towns in the interior of the state within the next 20 to 30 years to cater for the expected population increase there.
However, he cautioned that development programmes also presented challenges for the government because the state was very stringent in environmental management.
He added that the success of development projects could not totally put an end to all problems.
“When we talk about dam, the problem of resettlement will become most dominant.”
The issue had been exploited and sensationalised by some organizations he said.
Taib said some international NGOs were against the government’s efforts to develop the interior of the state through construction of dams despite its policies which safeguard the environment and the interests of the affected people.
The chief minister noted that some NGOs were responsible while some just tried to stir up issues in order to get maximum support in their own country or internationally.
If they were to succeed in stopping the development of rural areas through construction of the dams, the very people they claim to fight for would be deprived of a better life, said Taib.
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when he says that the state is very stringent in environmental management. And to think the Borneo Post can print such stuff with a straight face.