KUCHING: Some 150-odd families who have since moved out from the 1,600 hectare Bengoh Dam area, near Kuching, are demanding that the Sarawak government start paying them their promised monthly allowance of RM800 per month.
They are supposed to receive the payments for two years beginning from the date they moved out.
In addition, they had been promised a one-time moving-out allowance of RM11,000 per family.
This has not been paid either, according to Bengoh Resettlement Scheme (BRS) task force liaison committee chairman Itodio Peu.
“With the moving-out grant not given out yet, most of the affected villagers have not moved their belongings from their old homes,” he said.
It’s not known whether the state government has refused to pay them because 47 other families are staying put in the dam area.
The affected villagers refused to move out over issues relating to the loss of income over several years and other issues like compensation for their homes and loss of property including their farms. They are supposed to get 1.2ha per family in BRS compared to the vast farming land they had in the Bengoh Dam area.
Some 20 families are staying put in Kampung Taba Sait, 10 families in Kampung Pain Bojong, and 17 families in Kampung Rejoi, according to the task force figures. The 59 families in Kampung Semban Teleg vacated the area completely by November last year and moved to BRS.
“I cannot force them to move out,” said Itodio. “They cannot be expected to simply let go of their properties.”
Conducting valuation exercise
Another issue is that many of those who moved out didn’t go for BRS but instead chose to build new homes on higher ground, some 20km from the dam. Their complaint is that the land in BRS cannot be worked immediately.
“It was important for the government to fully compensate the villagers for their land, farms, fruit trees and properties left behind in their original villages,” said Itodio.
He said then Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, during a visit to Bengoh last October, promised that all compensation payments would be completed within three years.
Itodio conceded that BRS was much better in terms of basic infrastructure and communications, but he worries that some folks, especially those with no fixed income, might have to struggle to pay the bills.
The RM129 million BRS covers some 130ha in Penrissen, near Kampung Semadang, 43km from Kuching.
Bengoh state assemblyman Dr. Jerip Susil said the Sarawak Land and Survey Department is still conducting valuation exercise and processing the claims of the affected villagers.
He also said that many villagers had yet to be relocated because the district office had yet to receive the allocation for the relocation from the state government.
It’s not known when the RM310 million dam, started in 2007 and completed in 2010, can be used.
The dam has a retention capacity of 144.1 million cubic metres of water to be supplied to the Batu Kitang treatment plant.
Bengoh will increase the plant’s treated water output to 2,047 mega litres per day (MLD) compared with the current 786 MLD. The plant will supply consumers in Kuching and Kota Samarahan.