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New Dam Projects on Dayak Territory in Borneo

Published: July 16, 2009, Author: MHirch

It is one of the last intact rainforests of the world. The jungle of Sarawak in the Malay state of Borneo. For years the government engages in dam projects cutting through virgin land and threatening a fragile treasure of plants and rare animals displacing thousands of local indigenous groups such as the Dayak people. These indigenous communities lose their ancestral lands, their homes foods and medicines from the forest and lives as independent people and thus ultimately their health and wellbeing.

The naked earth already is full of scars where the lush meadows have been scraped away by heavy bulldozers eating their way further and further into the mountainous green jungle. Despite being a protected zone around Kamong Bengoh where the Dayaks have all the land rights the government builds one of twelve new dams for hydro-electric power for about 90 thousand dollars. Many hectares of rainforest (3,5 million already have been cut to make room for palm oil plantations in recent years) will be flooded, hundreds of indigenous people are forced to resettle in other areas. The Dayak were never told about the dam project and only learned about it when the heavy machines arrived to cut open the ground.

Noone knows clearly where the Dayaks will be made to go or how much they will be compensated. What is clear is that the Dayaks are far from being treated with due respect as is to be expected towards peoples whose home the rainforest is. They are at best regarded as second class citizens standing in the way of profit.

However the Dayaks know well how to fight. In court this May the Supreme Court proved them to be right in a case that concerned their forced displacement because of clearing the rainforest in the interest of palm oil plantations.

If the Dayak are not successful in fighting these huge hydro-electric projects and protect their forest homes Borneo will have lost forever another precious part of the world’s few intact remaining rainforest areas.

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