As Impoundment Begins, Penan Renew Blockade at Murum

“Open your eyes wide for us. We demand our rights because we are not satisfied with the decisions that have been taken. Pay attention to our precise demands!”

Take action and tell the Sarawak government and Sarawak Energy that they need respect the rights of the people of Murum: Click here to take action!

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It has been a tragic week for the people affected by the Murum Dam in Sarawak. Sarawak Energy has begun the impoundment of the Murum dam, starting a process that threatens to drown over 2,750 sq. kilometers of forest and traditionally-owned land. We have also heard from our partners at SAVE-Rivers that the Penan village of Long Wat has been burned down by Sarawak Energy workers, and communities are reporting loss of boats due to the flooding from the impoundment. 

The Penan of Murum are taking action. Starting the week of September 9th, they have renewed the non-violent blockade of the road leading to the Murum Dam. Over 100 Penan leaders have been stopping all traffic in a last-ditch effort to get the government to respect their rights and to provide reasonable compensation for the loss of their lands and homes.

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This is the second blockade that the Penan of the Murum area have erected. In September 2012, the Penan of Long Wat village — the village that has now been burned — held a blockade that delayed construction of the dam for over a month. While the state-owned power company, Sarawak Energy, promised the Penan compensation and prime land for relocation, they have failed to deliver one their promises. Instead, they are relocating the Penan people to swampy areas that are not able to support their traditional agricultural practices.

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The Murum Dam is one of the 12 dams that the Sarawak government plans to build on Sarawak’s rivers. Currently, there has been no demand or purchasers identified for the power that will be generated by these destructive dams. During this May’s International Hydropower Association conference, the Sarawak government highlighted the Murum Dam as an example of the best practices  in their plans for massive dam expansion across Sarawak. A representative from Murum Dam was brought to the conference to speak about how he came to support the dam. Unfortunately, for the Penan of Long Wat village, the government’s “best practices” amounted to nothing but broken promises.

Now the Penan are standing up for their rights again. According to SAVE-Rivers, the state-wide network of anti-dam activists, the Penan are demanding RM 50,000 per family (about US $15,500), as well as 25 hectares of land, a 10 percent share in the profits from the Murum Dam, and full compensation for their lost land and resources.