Anti-dam Baram tribes to stage world indigenous summit

    Peter Kallang of Save Rivers is spearheading the campaign against the construction of the Baram Dam in Sarawak. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Desmond Davidson, October 13, 2015.

    The Baram tribes people, still buoyed by the Sarawak government’s July decision for a moratorium on the proposed mega hydroelectric dam in their area, will mark the second year of their resistance with a world summit that will see indigenous people from all over the world come to the state to show solidarity for their cause.

    The tribes will hold a five-day “solidarity and sharing experience” event they have dubbed the World Indigenous Summit on Environment and Rivers (Wiser Baram 2015) which starts on October 20 and culminates with a conference in Miri city on October 24.

    Their guests will include indigenous people and environmentalists from the Amazon rainforest of South America – Brazil, Honduras, Chile – and neighbours, the Philippines, Myanmar, Indonesia, as well as from the US and Australia.

    From the US are representatives of the Native American tribe, the Wintu of California.

    Announcing this today, Sarawak activist Peter Kallang of Save Rivers which is spearheading the campaign against the Baram Dam, said Malaysian citizens who are also affected by various dam projects in the country are also on the guest list.

    The fight to thwart the RM4 billion hydroelectric dam began with a blockade on October 23, 2013, which the tribes in Baram have managed to defend till today.

    If built, the 1,200MW dam, will submerge some 400 square kilometre of land and displace 20,000 indigenous people.

    Those affected come from several tribes – Kayan, Kenyah, Kelabit, Penan and Iban.

    The blockade has so far been effective in stopping all preliminary work, like the construction of the access road, on the proposed dam.

    To ensure Sarawak Electricity Berhad and their contractors do not attempt to run the blockade, the tribes people built two base camps, one at Long Lama and the other some 50km away near the proposed dam site and its reservoir at Long Kesseh, to monitor the blockade.

    Long Lama is about 200km from Miri city.

    Kallang said since the two base camps were continuously manned in the two years, the blockade could have the distinction of being the longest, continuously manned blockade in the country.

    He said while the tribes people welcome the moratorium on the dam, they have continued to man the base camps to stop logging activities that are still allowed under “salvage logging permits” issued by the Sarawak government to clear the dam site for the reservoir.