Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dams Spell Doom For Sarawak Borneo Rainforests And Its Indigenous People

Sarawak is not the proverbial land flowing with milk and honey.

Sarawak, is a land where money grows on trees, money flows down the river, money grows on, within and inside mountains, and money gushes from beneath the earth. Literally.

With sun-drenched and rain-soaked virgin forests, blue skies and fertile soils, Sarawak should be the place on earth closest to paradise for its 30 or more racial groups and subgroups.

Instead, it is a world where some families in the corridors of power swim in untold riches while many of its people drown in poverty. A conundrum of a few filthy rich amidst many, many more dirt poor.

And yet Sarawak’s leaders, for the umpteenth time, claim to have brought development to the people. This cry gets louder each time big projects are on the drawing board. Or when an election is around the corner.

In fact, Sarawak’s economic growth benefits only a small portion of the population and results in increasingly desperate circumstances for the majority. The ugly truth is, most people in Sarawak still wallow in squalor with little or no access to clean water, healthcare or electricity.

Meanwhile, vast swathes of rainforest have fallen, rare wildlife has all but vanished, unknown species of biodiversity have been exterminated while waiting to discovered, dead fishes turn up in what was once pristine waters, and the unthinkable of unthinkables: Sarawak’s indigenous cultures have been driven to the verge of collapse.

To cap it all, in the latest madcap of fetishes, Sarawak will build 12 more dams cutting through the pulse of Borneo.

A dam is a gigantic monster reared up from the river, a hideous incongruous wall with its dripping concrete out of place, completely unnatural and incompatible with the landscape. This monstrosity is the dam that blocks the river, diverts its waters through huge tunnels which converts the energy to electricity.

To build a dam for the developmental cause first displace the indigenous people who will lose their claim to their ancestral land forever, cut down the tropical timber, build a concrete monster, and voila! convert the rest of the landgrab into oil palm plantations. Everything fits in so snugly, marriages in heaven could not have been made better.

Who benefits?

A few families in power. Those few people sitting atop the pyramid who get richer helping the economy to grow, while it does nothing for those at the bottom except to push them even lower into servitude and hopelessness.

Yet, from a statistical standpoint this is recorded as economic progress. That is the deceptive nature of GNP; economic growth results even when it profits only one person, even if the majority of the people are quagmired in debt.

This development agenda is in truth, “development aggression”, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. This “politics of development” is “politics of corruption”.

Yet - and that is the beauty of it all – everything is above board. Nothing is illegal. The system itself is built upon subterfuge and is by definition legitimate.

Even the statistics say so.


Birds Talking Too said...

Be politically strong and be on guard.
Our population 'growth' is actually 'imported'.
Therefore we here at the Peninsular need many dams for power and water to feed the 'population' of illegal immigrants. I have always envied Borneo. So full of greens and clear waters. Do not allow the same to happen there, ya?
Cheers and Regards
Birds Talking Too

livelife_k said...

I can't help to feel disheartened and downright sad when I see emails or read articles about Malaysia's or Sarawak's economy.
With natural resources in - well, near abundance, who would have thought that Sarawak is home for many poor.

I once wondered, if Sarawak could raise the older generation in my family from dirt poor to people with house and cars, why can't I live and work in Sarawak? I was then enlightened by an elder.
Sarawak's economy drove the young to West Malaysia and overseas, I was told.
Wage level increased marginally - if it did at all in certain industries - but prices doubled, trippled, quadrapled... (Based on personal experience, not government statistics). It also struck me when my West Malaysian friends expressed their amazement on Sarawak's cost of living. They asked, how did Sarawakians survived with such low pay with prices comparable to West Malaysia?. Well, many barely do. Not many are fortunate. But, with all those resources, how could the fact be so depressing?

The dams will be just another heartache to people who know, or are directly affected by, the implication. And mother earth will have to sustain another injury, unnecessarily.

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