Penans from 18 villagers, some coming from as far as 100km interior, have banded together to block the access way to the Murum dam project site.
Their aim is to stop workers from Sarawak Energy Bhd and other companies from going to the site and to get the government to listen to their plight.
The Penans have mounted the blockade on the access road to the dam at Seping River Bridge, about 40km from the Murum dam project site.
Some pre-mix cement tankers, lorry trucks and trailers transporting building materials to the dam site have been forced to pull over and park at the road side.
The Penans are from Long Wat, Long Luar, Long Tangau, Long Menapa, Long Singu and Long Malim villages, which are located upstream, and from Long Peran and Long Jaik in the downstream of the project site.
Some of the protesters from remote Long Malim had travelled more than 100km to join the other Penans at the blockade site.
There were also some women and children joining the blockade.
Many of them held placards and banners bearing such messages as:” We Want Justice”, “We Demand Our Rights”, “Stop Murum Dam”, and “Sarawak Energy (SEB) No Entry”.
Speaking for the Penan communitees Surang Alung, chairman of Pelieran-Murum Penan Affairs Committee (PemupA), said: “The government has failed to consult members of our community on all aspects pertaining to the development of the project.”
“The Penan communities are protesting against the negligence of the government, which has not responded to the demands of the Penans affected by Murum dam project.”
Meanwhile, the Sarawak Conservation Alliance for Natural Environment (SCANE) said the Murum dam project “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 the Murum River.
Its national coordinator, Raymond Abin, said some 300 representatives of worried Penan communities in the affected areas had gathered in Long Jaik village on Sept 25 to put forth their concerns.
“At the meeting, the Penans came up with an open memorandum, detailing their issues, problems and demands to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud.
“Topping their list is their native customary rights land, compensation for their land and the place where they are to be resettled.
“Their memorandum also noted that they [Penans] do not want to face the problems that have been haunting the people displaced by Bakun and Batang Ai dams,” said Abin.
First of 12 mega dams
Work on the dam has been going on since mid-2008. The site is on the Murum River, a tributary of Balui River, about 80km upstream of the Bakun hydroelectric project in Belaga District, Kapit Division of Sarawak.
When completed, the Murum dam will be a 141-metre-high roller-compacted concrete dam that would be 547 metres above sea level, with a length of 473 metres and width of seven metres.
The width of the dam along the riverbed is 75 metres. It will flood 24,500 hectares of native customary rights land and forest of the Penan villages.
The dam catchment area is 275,000 hectares of mainly Usun Apau Plateau, the ancestral land of the indigenous communities in Sarawak.
The Sarawak government has sole vested interest in the dam with the project proponent, SEB, where 65% of the shares are owned by the state government.
The Murum dam project had been awarded to China’s Three Gorges Project Corporation. The estimated cost of the project is RM3 billion.
The progress of the work on the major structures of the dam is about 70% completed. It is scheduled to be ready by 2013.