Talks on letting natives cultivate their land near Bakun dam

james

BAKUN: The Sarawak state government is ready to consider a request by natives of the Bakun area, now resettled 60km at Sungai Asap longhouse, for permission to cultivate their native land near the Bakun dam, said State Land Development Minister James Jemut Masing.

He said discussions would be held with the relevant authorities by the state government and Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd, the operator of the Bakun hydroelectric power plant and dam.

In 1998 and 1999, the residents of 15 longhouses in Hulu Balui were relocated to modern longhouses in Sungai Asap to make way for the construction of the massive Bakun dam. Sungai Asap is located about 60km from the dam site.

“Both the state and Federal Government will consider…we will handle this matter properly and allocate the land (to the people involved) accordingly. We need to get the approval of the (state) Land and Survey Department, but we can assist.

“The area where they had lived (before they were relocated) is their native customary land, hence it won’t be wrong to give them permission to cultivate the land they left behind, as long as all the agricultural or livestock rearing activities are carried out at least one kilometre away from the danger zone, the treatment plant area,” he said after opening a floating public jetty and waiting area in Tasik Balui at Bakun dam, here recently.

The construction of the RM800,000 jetty and waiting area was undertaken by Sarawak Hidro.

Belaga Balui Lake Native Association Chairman Tony Kulleh had previously urged the state government to allow them to cultivate the land in Hulu Balui, on the basis that it was native reserve land. He had said that the 1.2-hectare plot that was given to each family affected by the Bakun dam project was not enough to meet their needs.

“The land that we now have in Sungai Asap is not sufficient to meet the needs of the first generation, let alone our future generations…even if we plant oil palm, it (the yield) will not be enough to support the whole family,” he said.

He suggested that the authorities return the rights to their customary land to them “so that we can cultivate our land and earn extra income”.

On Masing’s response that the state government was ready to consider their request, Kulleh said it was good news to the Sungai Asap residents and he hoped that it would become a reality.

-BERNAMA

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