The 347 Penan families affected by the construction of Murum hydroelectric (HEP) dam may get their wish to be relocated to the Upper Plieran and Upper Danum forest reserves said Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing yesterday.
He added that both forest reserves covering an area of about 10,000 hectares each were still primary forest where the Penans could carry on with their life
as food gatherers and hunters.
He said the Upper Plieran forest reserve would be allocated for the Penans from Long Merapa which has 39 households; Long Luar (52 households); Long Tangau (28 households)
and Long Singu (64 households).
While the Penans from Long Malin Penan which has 46 households; Long Malin Badeng Kenyah (35 households) and Long Wat (83 households) will be relocated to the Upper Danum forest reserve.
“The proposed areas where they will be relocated are their own choice,” Masing told the media at his residence here yesterday.
He added that the forest reserves could allow the older generation to continue with their traditional lifestyle.
“But on top of that, the affected families will also be allocated 15 hectares of land for agriculture needs for the younger generation,” explained Masing.
He admitted that there were some flaws in the government policies in past resettlement programmes for people affected by construction of dams.
As such he said the government had come up with a new proposal so that the affected people would be given better deals such as bigger land allocation and other basic amenities.
“We hoped that these proposals for the Penans in Murum will be accepted by the relevant authorities,” stressed Masing.
Masing who is an anthropologist by training has been roped in as the advisor for the Murum resettlement programme.
He had been involved in the Bakun HEP project which has started to produce electricity since August 6.
Masing said the relocation exercise was done in consultation with the Penan community.
“We take this approach as the Penans are a special breed of people in the eyes of the world.
But it doesn’t mean that we don’t know their lifestyle.
“That’s why it’s important for us to implement the new policy which will into take into account their unique lifestyle,” added Masing.
Murum HEP dam is about 70km upriver from Bakun HEP dam. It is now about 35 per cent completed.
The RM3.5 billion HEP dam has a generating capacity of 944 MW.
Works on the project started on October 1, 2008 and the impoundment is expected to be carried out by June next year.
The whole project is expected to be completed by end of 2013.
by Peter Sibon, firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted on August 27, 2011, Saturday