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Indigenous tribe in Borneo lose land to Bakun Dam

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Bakun Dam   Photo: Sarawak Report.org Members of an indigenous tribe in Borneo lost a case in Malaysia’s top court Thursday challenging the state’s seizure of land to build a massive dam.

The verdict capped a decade-long legal struggle by a group of villagers who claim authorities in Malaysia’s eastern Sarawak state unlawfully wrested away land occupied by their ancestors for generations.

Land rights are a key concern for Malaysia’s indigenous people, many of whom say they have been pushed from their homes with insufficient compensation by state governments to make way for development.

The Federal Court dismissed an appeal by tribal villagers who said the Sarawak administration violated their constitutional rights by taking over land in the late 1990s to construct the Bakun Dam, a 7 billion ringgit ($2.3 billion) hydroelectric project that created reservoir roughly the size of Singapore.

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“The Bakun Dam triggered wide criticism from the start from environmentalists because it displaced thousands of people and flooded an area of at least 260 square miles (680 square kilometers) ” according to Seattle Times.

Sarawak Report.org, a citizen onlooker group, concerned by the situation in East Malaysia had earlier reported on sloppy construction practices. 

 

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Posted by on Sep 8 2011. Filed under Biodiversity & Ecosystems, Malaysia/Thailand/Myanmar/Cambodia, S.E.Asia/Australasia. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “Indigenous tribe in Borneo lose land to Bakun Dam”

  1. Interesting example of involuntary resettlement caused by dam building.

    The World Bank estimates that forcible “development-induced displacement and resettlement” now affects 10 million people per year. According to the World Bank an estimated 33 million people have been displaced by development projects such as dams, urban development and irrigation canals in India alone.

    India is well ahead in this respect. A country with as many as over 3600 large dams within its belt can never be the exceptional case regarding displacement. The number of development induced displacement is higher than the conflict induced displacement in India. According to Bogumil Terminski an estimated more than 10 million people have been displaced by development each year.

    Athough the exact number of development-induced displaced people (DIDPs) is difficult to know, estimates are that in the last decade 90–100 million people have been displaced by urban, irrigation and power projects alone, with the number of people displaced by urban development becoming greater than those displaced by large infrastructure projects (such as dams). DIDPs outnumber refugees, with the added problem that their plight is often more concealed.

    This is what experts have termed “development-induced displacement.” According to Michael Cernea, a World Bank analyst, the causes of development-induced displacement include water supply (dams, reservoirs, irrigation); urban infrastructure; transportation (roads, highways, canals); energy (mining, power plants, oil exploration and extraction, pipelines); agricultural expansion; parks and forest reserves; and population redistribution schemes.

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