Thursday, November 3, 2011

Why were Bengoh folks not asked if they want to move out of dam area?

Bengoh dam is making news for all the wrong reasons-the Auditor General's report is an example. But the dam is also open to other criticism viz the dam is designed to supply 2100mil litres of raw water/day to Kuching, which only consumes 600mil litres of raw water/day. The dam is over sized-such that the politicians are talking openly about releasing a big part of the water to generate electricity! Were the Bengoh folks ever asked if they agree to sacrifice for all these anomalies?

Joseph Tawie
Why is the Sarawak government forcing Bengoh Dam natives to shift to a resettlement scheme which the Auditor General’s Report 2010 has described as ‘unsuitable’?
The Sarawak government has been urged to immediately carry out a census poll on the 394 families from four villages affected by the construction of the multi-million ringgit Bengoh Dam.

State opposition PKR said a completed census would show how many families and villagers from Kampung Taba Sait, Rejoi, Bojong-Pain and Semban would be willing to shift to the resettlement scheme between Kampung Semadang and Skio.
“This census is necessary because the resettlement scheme risks being an expensive flop as the affected villagers appear not in favour of moving into the resettlement scheme,” said See Chee How, Sarawak PKR vice-chairman.
See, a lawyer who is also representing the villagers, said the census was imperative considering the recent Auditor General’s Report 2010 which had strongly criticized the Bengoh Dam project.
“I must draw the public’s attention to the drawback of the Bengoh Dam project as it had attracted much criticism from the Auditor-General’s Report 2010 published two weeks ago.
“The Auditor-General’s Report has actually identified two areas of vital concerns. Firstly, it found the resettlement for the affected families to be ‘unsuitable’ and ‘questionable’.
“Secondly, completion of the dam project has been delayed and as a result they expect the cost to over-run to RM58 million,” he said.
Resettlement scheme ‘unsuitable’
Work on the dam, which is situated some 40 kilometres from here, began in July 2007.
Once completed it will supply untreated water to the Kuching Water Board’s treatment plant until 2030.
The dam was scheduled for completion in December 2010 but as of February 2011, only 97.3% of the dam has been completed.
The initial cost of the dam is RM310.65 million but the delay is expected to cost the government an additional RM60. 57 million.
According to the AG’s Report, the delay was due to poor coordination between land acquisition, the resettlement of nearby villagers and the preparation of the Bengoh Residents Resettlement Scheme.
The report has found the resettlement location ‘unsuitable’ and ‘questionable’.
Said See: “As the Auditor-General’s Report was vague on the first issue (unsuitability and questionable resettlement location), the state BN government seems to have found an excuse to its shortcoming.
“The MP for Mambong James Dawos Mamit and Bengoh assemblyman Jerip Susil had commented and declared that the Auditor-General’s Report was referring to the original plan of resettling the affected villagers near Kampung Bayur.
“However, since the dam project was carried out in 2007, the affected villagers have been told of the resettlement site near Kampung Semadang and not Kampung Bayur.
“There is no reason why the AG’s Report was referring to any original resettlement plan near Kampung Bayur.”
AG’s Report exposed flaws
See, who is also the Batu Lintang assemblyman, pointed out that the AG’s Report had exposed an ill-conceived resettlement plan of which there was no prior consultation with the affected village families.
“Whether the resettlement scheme is near Kampung Bayur or Kampung Semadang, it appears that the affected village families are not moving into the resettlement scheme.
“As of today, these affected Bidayuh families are building their new houses in Mok Ayung, Nyagong, Sting and Kandong which are all situated in upper Bengoh, not far from their original village settlements.
“On the other hand, many families of Kampung Semban are determined to stay put as their traditional village site will not be affected by the water impoundment.
“In view of this, a census or poll on the 394 families and 1,595 former villagers of Kampung Taba Sait, Rejoi, Bojong and Semban all of whom are affected by the dam is now necessary to determine the number of families who are willing to be resettled at the resettlement scheme between Kampung Semadang and Skio,” he said.
See described the census as particularly crucial now as the implementation of the project has been delayed and the AG’s Report 2010 has found that the state would have to bear an additional cost.
No benefit to villagers
The report noted that in September 2010, the Works Department had recommended that villagers be temporarily relocated to a nearby area.
It expected the total cost, including housing rental and allowances to cost RM39.81 million, an amount to be borne by Sarawak government.
The audit, however, estimated that this cost could easily balloon to RM58.37 million depending on the state government’s decision on the resettlement issue.
Said See: “So far there has been no response from the state cabinet, but the costs are escalating by the day.
“Meanwhile, additional works in road construction and improvement together with flood mitigation work worth more than RM2.5 million have been added to the cost overruns.
“Such cost overruns could have been avoided had there been transparency and good governance.
“The state government owes all Sarawakians and Malaysians in general an explanation on its failure as the country can ill-afford such hefty cost of mismanagement and poor governance.
“To avoid the hefty cost overruns, I would suggest that the state government seriously considers the option of allowing the affected Bidayuh villagers to construct their houses on their ancestral land which is outside and above the area which will be inundated.
“After all, if the affected villagers have decided not to move into the resettlement scheme, there is no point in spending more money for works at the resettlement scheme.
“It will only prove to be an expensive flop, and become the quarters of plantation workers who are foreigners or settlers from other parts of the state.
“No benefit will be brought to the affected villagers,” he said.

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