Sabah: new hydroelectric dam to force 1,400 families from their homes
Residents in the Kaiduan valley are mostly Christian and in June built a blockade to stop preliminary work on the dam. They also raised a 1.8-metre wooden cross where the dam is set to be built.
“We are 100 per cent against this project and we will continue to defend our customary rights over this land,” said John Sobitang, a local village chief.
The loss of their ancestral lands will be all the more painful because the villagers worked hard to improve the infrastructure connecting their jungle home to the outside world. Villagers erected their own electric poles, which bring energy from a micro-hydroelectric turbine in the river. Thus, they now have electricity, television, satellite phones and computers with access to the internet.
The government has rejected criticism, saying that the project is necessary because the present water supply will fall short of demand after 2010.
“My Ministry will also monitor the development of the study and ensure the negative effects would be minimised and that the project benefits the people”, said Infrastructure Development Minister Datuk Seri Joseph Pairin Kitingan.
Affected villagers would be compensated with land, houses and basic amenities, he explained.