Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Joseph Pairin Kitingan said the government was also scaling back a related dam project in Papar district.
Nearly a month after villagers in Penampang voiced their opposition to the construction of the water treatment plant at Kampung Maang in Penampang, Pairin told the House on Thursday that the project site would be moved.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009
(Article shared by Susan B.)
I come from a family of traditional healer and Bobohizan (priestess) from Penampang. As a child I grew up with herbal medicine found in the forest, and traditional massages using oils made from barks, leaves and roots. Stomachache, diarrhea, headache, fever, sprained limbs, chicken pox and other ailments were treated by my grandmother using traditional herbal medicines. As I started my own family, my monthly pre-natal appointments with my gynaecologist were supplemented by monthly massages on my ever growing ‘tummy’ by my grandmother. She would use herbal oils which had a calming aroma to it. She would speak to the baby as she massaged my tummy and point out to me the position of the elbows, knees, legs and sometimes let me feel the baby having hiccups. On both of my pregnancies, she predicted the sex of my children accurately. She gave me advice as we spoke while she massaged my tummy. Advice which I brought with me to the labour room in the form of confidence and strength in bringing my children into this world. She was the midwife in the village and must have delivered hundreds if not thousands of babies in her time in a span of 70 years. I did not hear of a single mortality and complications during birth under her hands. She passed away at the age 90 years old.
As far back as I can remember my grandmother had been telling us stories and beliefs of the Kadazan people. She often reminded us that
is a sacred mountain to the people and in fact this whole earth is sacred. Mount Kinabalu
She will remind us to be respectful of nature when we go into the forest as we look for wild mushrooms, ferns, frogs, go fishing or pick fruits. When we cut a branch we were told to ask permissions and say a note of thanks to the forest and the trees for letting us share the bounty of the earth. We could not simply take whatever we wanted, and we must not take more than we needed. My grandmother and parents taught us to listen to the wind, the rustle of the forest, the humming of insects around us. A certain call made by a bird could mean we need to leave the forest immediately. A certain creak in the woods can mean wind and rain.
When we were not careful and cut ourselves as we wander through the forest, my parents pointed out which leaves to chew and paste on our wounds to stop the blood from flowing. As we go along, my mother will pick sweet wild berries for us to try, turning our tongue purple to which we, the children, stuck our tongues to each other in mock horror.
Nearer home, at the periphery of the forest, the sound of rubber seeds bursting through their pods and falling to the ground were greatly anticipated by the children. As soon as we heard the plop sound on the ground there would be a mad scramble to look for the rubber seeds. The more seeds collected the longer and better the game will be played once we got home for the “who has the strongest rubber seeds” competition.
We were often reminded that the wind, the rain, the sun, the earth, the trees, the river, the animals, the insects and us are one. We plant our food, bury our dead, and build our homes on the soil of the land. The river quenches our thirst, provide us with fish, for washing, and for swimming. The wind provides cool respite from the hot tropical climate, brings with it murmurs of nature that soothes our mind and calms our soul. The same wind that brings the smell and the wonderful thud sound of ripe durians falling from their trees! Durians that will be shared and savoured by the children and adult alike, young and old. The forest is our medicine chest, carrying within it cures for our ailments and sickness. That is why the land is sacred.
Our people did not and do not reject development. In fact many of us have embraced the modern world with all its contraptions and material needs and the demands on nature. What we, or at least what I don’t understand is why do humankind demand so much of nature?
We need more water because we forgot how to take only what we need. We cut down trees, pollute our rivers and air, and kill wild animals in order to fill our pockets with sheets of paper which humankind has placed more values to as compared to the trees that gives us fruits and oxygen; rivers that provide us food and water; clean air that allows us to breathe healthily; and animals, plants, insects and others that create a balance in our ecosystem. Are our lives measured by how thick and how much of these sheets of paper we own in our life?
My grandmother and parents told us that we and the environment and everything around us are all inter connected in one way or another. That is why whatever happens to our environment and ecosystem, soon happens to us human. When we flood or destroy our land, we are destroying our lives and the lives of our children.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
(Article shared by Susan B.)
Saturday, late afternoon, the rain had just subsided, vehicles along the busy road of vibrant Donggongon town in Penampang district move at a slow pace, cars parked along the side of the road, families from the nearby villages doing their groceries shopping, friends chat in coffeeshops, and across the town library the construction of a shopping complex goes on despite the earlier rain.
In one of the Chinese coffeeshop, a group of about 12 community representative including the village elders, pre-school teachers, and youths sat around two round table that has been joined together, waiting for my arrival. I had previously assisted in training some of the community youths to make participatory video documentary in 2007, so there were some familiar faces amongst those seated around the table.
I had read in the local newspaper about the Kaiduan dam project which threatened to destroy homes and heritage of these community members and others nearby. I had contacted the NGO representative who has been working with the community on conservation and environmental issues to find out whether there is any way I can be of assistance to the affected community. Further more, I am also a Kadazandusun from Penampang and indirectly my family, relatives, friends and I are affected by the proposed Kaiduan dam. My village, Penampang Proper and the surrounding areas would consequently also be a construction site for the next 10 to 15 years if the proposed dam goes ahead, and be the receiving end in the unfortunate event that the dam overflows or bursts, and as settlement areas for workers (most likely illegal foreign immigrants) who will be hired to work on the dam project. As it is, Penampang town, a densely populated area is already a flood prone area and has suffered major floods many times over the last 20 years.
As I arrived, from the distance I can sense a feeling of anticipation from the community members. As I took steps forward, I am keenly aware from their faces that they are eagerly awaiting for my arrival. The hastily arranged informal meeting was set up earlier within a few hours and I found myself spending the next 2 and half hours listening to the community. There is a sense of the community wanting to share and to reach out for any support they can get for their plight.
Much of the talking was done by Nousi Giun, a young man who is the Chairman of a community movement against the Kaiduan Dam. It was clear that he has the support of everyone around the table as a spokesperson for the community. The elderly were consulted as and when Nousi needed some confirmation. Another young man, also in his twenties contributed in the conversations and offered his opinions and suggestions. The same young man who also later asked, haltingly and quietly of any possible impact on their security and well being due to them going against the proposed Kaiduan dam project.
Also at the meeting was the representative of the international NGO, a local who has been working with the community in the area for the last few years on biodiversity, conservation, and other environmental research, whom I had contacted earlier. Other organizations such as Partners of Community Organisation (PACOS Trust) has introduced micro hydro power, community run pre-school including training of the community teachers, and ecotourism. Mercy Malaysia regularly visits the villages to provide health care services. Nousi also informed that the community has recently received assistance to develop its agricultural programme such as pepper and rubber planting. The community together with University Malaysia Sabah is embarking upon a community telecentre project which will enable the community to have access to the internet.
The villages which is situated inside and within the vicinity of the Crocker Range, despite having their ancestral land reduced after the gazetting of the Crocker Range Park, has been working with government agencies and other partners to support the nomination of the Crocker Range Biosphere Reserve under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Man and the Biosphere Programme.*
Nousi added that facilities in the form of community hall, primary school, teacher’s quarters, school hostel, church, bridge, mud road, gravity water pipes, paddy processing mill have been built over the years in the villages.
Just as the future looks bright for the community and forests of the villages, an impending flood in the form of the Kaiduan dam threatens to drown the immense efforts undertaken by the community and their partners.
The government of Sabah has granted approval in Feb 2008 to carry out a feasibility study and technical proposals for the implementation of the Kaiduan dam. It seems the feasibility studies, which the community was not consulted or even aware of, has been completed and presented to the government and a letter of Intent together with a Need Statement were subsequently given to WCT Berhad on 15 May 2009 requesting WCT to submit a detailed proposal for the dam project for negotiation with the government.
Subsequently WCT Berhad has prepared a proposal with recommendations for the Kaiduan dam to be implemented and to gazette Kaiduan catchment, an area of about 350 square kilometres, as water catchment reserve immediately.
This means the land will be taken away from the villages and will become State land. The community fears that since the funding for the project comes from the Federal Government the land will effectively become Federal land.
WCT also recommended the government to assure affected villagers that the government will ensure fair compensation and proper resettlement of those affected by the dam.
According to the international NGO records, approximately 1,400 indigenous Dusun people live in the Ulu Papar villages of Kalangaan, Pongobonon, Longkogungon, Terian and the Buayan-Kionop hamlets of Timpayasa, Tiku, Buayan and Kionop. Most of these villages falls within the proposed water catchment reserve. They are subsistence swidden farmers, relying principally on hill rice, hunted animals and freshwater fish, as well as gathering of forest products for their daily needs. Over generations in these ancestral lands, they continue to transform the surrounding anthropogenic landscapes into a living cultural landscape that sustains a diversity of plants and animals, which in turn, provide them with the food, medicines and materials they need.The Kaiduan Dam will submerge all of their lands, fields, graves, sacred sites, homes. It will force them to be relocated against their will.
Proper resettlement of more than 1000 people requires lengthy process and with high financial implications to the government. Nousi stated that when questioned, WCT could not come up with detailed information as to where the location of resettlement would be except that it will be in Penampang. However, Penampang is already a densely populated area. The feasibility studies failed to mention the time and financial considerations for resettlement and compensation.
According to what has been proposed, the dam will flood an area of 12 sq km. Land that include a government primary school, 3 kindergardens, churches, graves, tamus (village markets), houses, fruit and vegetable gardens, bridge, paddy fields and others.
To build the dam, the biomass from the 12 sq km impounded area will be burnt- right at the back of Donggongon town, where we were gathered for the discussion on Saturday.
The dam will be a rock-filled dam. There is no information about where they will source these materials. A quarry will probably be needed, which in itself will require Environmental Impact Assessment to be done.
The dam will be connected by a 3.75m diameter tunnel to channel water to a Water Treatment Plant proposed in Maang village. The water treatment plant, to be located on the hill of Maang village will be triple the size of KLCC. The tunnel runs through the territories of an additional 8 indigenous communities, from Timpangoh, Sugud, Limbanak and so on until it reaches Maang. From Maang, the water will travel by tunnel to Lok Kawi where it will then be channelled by pipe to houses in Penampang, Kota Kinabalu and other places.
As I browse through the notes shown to me by Nousi of the presentation in the District Office by WCT Berhad which was held on 30 October 2009, I noticed how basic the information was. I was aware of the Sabah Water Resource Management MasterPlan and the announcement in the 1990s about Sabah Government’s plan to build 16 dams as announced by the then Chief Minister Datuk Osu Sukam. I can’t help but wonder how many millions of tax payers money were spent and going to be spent to pay companies to do the feasibility studies and EIA reports for the 16 dams, and more significantly whether the study done is and will be worth the millions paid to the companies and their Consultants. I was not aware of any tender process for conducting the feasibility studies or the EIA. There was also no mention of the life cycle cost of the dam, maintenance required, cost-benefit analysis, socio impact assessment, and legislation and enforcement, monitoring measures, and mitigation measures should unwanted events occur. A copy of the Feasibility studies was not available for reference by the community. In fact, the community was never consulted during the preparation of the feasibility studies.
As announced in May 2009 by the outgoing state infrastructure Development Minister Datuk Raymond Tan, it was reported that the Kaiduan dam will ensure sufficient water supply to Kota Kinabalu and its vicinity until the year 2050. Further, the plan for the construction of the Maang water treatment plant and the upgrading of two existing plants has been approved by the state Cabinet on April 13 2009. Together, the Kaiduan dam and the water treatment plant would cost RM2.8bil. Once completed an additional 1,200 million litres of water a day will be available for Kota Kinabalu. The dam will be three times larger than the existing Kampung Babagon dam which is also in Penampang district. However, it left me wondering how much of the 1200 million litres will subsequently become non-revenue water, lost due to pilferage, poor materials and construction workmanship causing leakages to pipes which are already happening on a large scale in Sabah.
The NGO representative present in our gathering also pointed out that estimates given by WCT Berhad of the number of houses that will be affected vary from the records gathered by the community. Also, the study appeared to have failed to take into account the wider impact of the project. For instance, many of the villagers are related and people from the affected villages will be separated from their families who are living in villages outside the affected areas. Also, it does not consider the impact on the other settlements outside the affected areas in terms of loss of hunting and fishing grounds, changes in the properties of the soil, which may force them to resettle elsewhere without any forms of compensation.
Nousi stated that the community is concerned that human rights are at risk in the preparation and implementation of the Kaiduan dam. In particular, the lack of full, accurate, accessible and impartial information; the lack of opportunities for genuine participation in developing plans for the dam and for mitigating the social impact of the dam; the exclusion of women and other community members from the decision-making process; and the risk that impending displacements may amount to mass forced evictions.
The community hopes that the government will halt the Kaiduan dam and surrounding infrastructure implementation and address the many human rights which include cultural, economic, social and environmental concerns associated with the project. These manifestly include the need to improve the processes of consultation on development projects, genuine participation of the people, and take steps including through legislation to ensure effective safeguard against forced evictions and adopt effective protection measures against other human rights abuses in this and similar projects.
As I stood there at the twilight hour, sun setting, shops shutters closing, I looked around the green hills hugging Penampang. I saw a view that I have grown accustomed to, grown up with, hills that I have climbed, rivers that I have swam and fished in. Although I have now settled in Kota Kinabalu city, Penampang will always be where I belong. Home is where the heart is. The last rays of sunlight disappeared behind the clouds. I can’t help but feel a deep sense of sadness that all these might remain only a memory which will disappear along with the forest, the Kadazandusun culture, tradition and heritage.
There is a Causes page:
There is a Facebook page for Stop the Kaiduan Dam Campaign:
* "The Crocker Range has long been recognised as a primary centre for plant diversity and endemism, and is included in the WWF Global 200 high priority ecoregions. The Crocker Range was designated as a forest reserve in 1968. Crocker Range National Park (CRNP) was then established in 1984 to protect the water catchments area that is supplying clean drinking water to the West Coast and the interior of Sabah. It was then renamed to Taman Banjaran Crocker (Crocker Range Park) in 1996 and managed by the Sabah Parks. The rising concern to protect its rich biodiversity and rare species of flora and fauna inhabiting these forest areas had been the prime mover in the initiative to gazette it as a National Park." Source: Wall post on the Stop kaiduan Dam Facebook Cause by Shahir Shamsir.
Friday, November 13, 2009
As we look into the possibility of losing more ancestral land due to the Kaiduan dam here's a Kadazan folktale to remind us of the Kadazandusun rice growing background and cultural heritage.
There once lived a poor woman all by herself. One day while she was doing her daily chores out on the great plain she heard a pitiful cry of distress coming from a large pond. The voice was calling her name so she went to investigate. Arriving at the big pond she was surprised to find no sign of anyone. Thinking that she may have been working too hard and was too tired, she thought perhaps she was hallucinating. Hence, the old woman decided to return home.
No sooner had she turned away then the voice was heard again. This time it was clearer. It seemed to come from just near her. Curiously she tried again to find the source of the voice.
To her amazement she found the weeds that floated on the water were talking to her. The weeds said, "Please help us. We are helpless and cold in these waters". Moved with compassion, the old woman quickly salvaged the weeds and took them home with her.
When she arrived home, she carefully put them in a very safe place. Then she went off to sleep because she was very tired from working all day.
That night she had a dream. She dreamt that a fairy came to her and thanked her for being so kind to heed her cry. The fairy wanted to help and reward her.
The fairy said, "Not many people nowadays would be willing to show kindness and concern to those who are distressed. So as a sign of my gratitude, my reward will be that you and your people will always be blessed. Actually I am Geranggau, the lumpunggut (weed), that you took from the pond. From now on I shall be your guardian. However, you shall have to abide by a few rules. These rules you must observe concern the ceremony of padi planting".
Geranggau told the woman that if one wanted a very good harvest one should prepare a bamboo tray to hold a bottle of tapai (rice wine) and a few pieces of sireh (betel leaves), kehrai (palm leaves), a few lumps of sikop (tobacco) and some rice cooked in banana leaves. Furthermore one must also slaughter three healthy fowls and using the feathers make a replica cockerel from the rumbiah palm branches. It has to be about one foot long and must be covered with the feathers from the fowls.
When all this has been done one should celebrate inside the house together with all those in the household before one goes to the padi fields for another ritualistic ceremony.
When a good place has been located in the padi field, usually near clean, clear water, place the artificial cockerel about six feet high near the water's edge facing the sunrise. When all this has been done I shall join in the ceremony with you. But when you leave the padi field always remember to collect the clear water, from where you put the cockerel, in bamboo containers and bring it back to the household. It is important that you should use the water to sprinkle the house and everyone inside the house as a mark of my blessing and then you shall obtain a rich padi harvest.
This kind of ritual shall be called Margambaun and it has to be respected and observed from time to time so that I can constantly be of help to you.
When the old woman awoke the next morning she felt very excited and related the whole dream to her neighbours. Whether it was the truth or not she accepted it as a very good omen and intended to observe the rules. So she decided to hold a big feast together with her neighbours as she firmly believed that the gods had sent Geranggau to help and protect her.
Even up to the present day a few gathered bunches of lumpunggut can be of spiritual and traditional value to the Kadazan people of Sabah.
Source: "Tales of Borneo" by Benedict S. Chong, Penerbit Sanmin Sdn Bhd, Malaysia, 1993
Thursday, November 5, 2009
1. Gaining public acceptance
2. Comprehensive options assessment
Before deciding whether to build a dam, there should be a transparent and participatory assessment of needs for water, food and energy. All options for meeting these needs should be considered. First priority should be given to making existing water, irrigation and energy systems more effective and sustainable. Social and
Adversely affected people should be the first to benefit from a project. this includes those displaced, those living upstream and downstream of the dam, those living around the reservoir, and those whose lands are impacted by resettlement sites. they should participate in identification, selection, distribution and delivery of benefits. Negotiations with affected people should result in mutually agreed and legally enforceable mitigation and development provisions.
Financial institutions and project promoters must adopt a clear set of criteria and guidelines for developing water and energy resources. Before a project begins, a plan for complying with all project-related obligationsmust be developed including both incentives and sanctions. Steps should be taken to end corrupt practices.
Measures should be developed for countries to resolve disputes and cooperate over issues concerning transboundary rivers. States should have the ability to stop projects on shared rivers using independent panels and other forms of dispute resolution. WCD principles should be incorporate into national water policies to help resolve disputes and promote cooperation over shared river basins.