Indigenous Peoples Protest Destructive Dams at Industry Conference in Malaysia

On Borneo, indigenous people from the ethnic groups of Penan, Kenyah, Kayan, and Iban demonstrated against a number of contentious dams this morning at the start of the International Hydropower Association’s (IHA) biennial convention.

Tens of thousands of indigenous people would be impacted by these dams, and more than 2000 square kilometres of rainforest would be flooded. Despite repeated requests from impacted communities, dam builder Sarawak Energy has not made the environmental impact evaluations for any of the dams publicly available.

Construction on the 944 MW Murum Dam by China Three Gorges Corporation began in 2012 before its environmental impact assessment had even started, leaving impacted villages with no choice but to negotiate resettlement agreements.

As long as it continues to disregard our rights, the Sarawak government needs to cease building these dams, according to Peter Kallang, the network’s chairman and a representative of the impacted indigenous peoples.

SAVE Rivers claimed that it also asked that Sarawak Energy and the Sarawak Government cease all development on mega dams in Sarawak; that all native, customary rights be recognised in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP); that the government promptly address any unresolved issues with the Batang Ai, Bakun, and Murum dams; that the International Hydropower Association terminate Sarawak Energy’s membership in IHA; and that Mr. T.

This week, Sarawak Energy refused to let Mr. Kallang attend a workshop held by the International Finance Corporation and the IHA to discuss regional cooperation among stakeholders, despite Mr. Kallang having paid for the right to do so, in an act of mistrust and poor relations with the affected communities. In a statement, SAVE Rivers condemned the methods, calling them an illustration of the civil society suppression that some claim defines this developing democracy.

According to a recent undercover video produced by Global Witness, the Sarawak state administration has been dogged by accusations of corruption: Abdul Taib Mahmud, the Chief Minister of Sarawak who won a tight reelection in early May, has given significant contracts to his family network.

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