The Bengoh Dam is a water reservoir being constructed to supply water to Kuching, the capital of Sarawak. Construction has begun despite reports stating vast reserves of water can be saved were the failing infrastructure in the city repaired, upgraded and maintained. There are also concerns regarding protected flora and fauna, overlooked within the Environment Impact Assessment.
Dams are big business in Sarawak. No less than 12 dams are proposed for construction. Described as Malaysia’s Renewable Energy Corridor, and claims that the program responds to dwindling energy resources and climate change, has already seen the relocation of more than 10,000 indigenous peoples as the first dam, the infamous Bakun Dam, gets under way.
It is alleged that the construction of these dams will increase the wealth and power of Sarawak’s Chief Minister’s family and their operatives. In doing so, this internationally condemned project will see relocation of the last of Sarawak’s forest communities and the inundation of precious primary forest and native habit.
We look a the four villages most affected by the Bengoh Dam development. Their proposed resettlement, what it means to them to lose their native title lands, the value of their communities, their culture and self-sustainability.
In The Forest and the Dam we review the Environment Impact Assessment prepared prior to construction of the Bengoh Dam. We look at the anticipated loss of habitat and the inundation of protected and endangered species.
Bidayuh travel to the Bakun Dam resettlement scheme and hear from the resettled Kenyah at Sungai Asap about their experiences and see first hand the results of relocation. They also meet with Iban at Rumah Agi who fought to retain customary right to their own land in the face of palm oil exploitation.
From the bamboo bridges of Bengoh, the skin art of the Semban, to the sape of Bakun, Sarawak’s often unseen traditions, knowledge and skills are vanishing.
Seven generations of music are said to be held by a Sape master living in the Bakun Dam resettlement scheme, 180km southeast of Bintulu, Sarawak, East Malaysia. The Sape is one of the more well known traditional instruments of Sarawak, but few remain who can perform the music of former generations and in the style that represents that heritage.
On the 23 October 2007 Kelesau Naan, the headman of the Penan village, Long Kerong, left his wife at a rest area in the forest to check on his traps. He never returned. Two months later his remains were found scattered across the Segita River.
Presented by his son, Nick Kelesau, The Headman explores the events leading up to his disappearance. Kelesau Naan sought only to protect his people and their native customary right to the land they have lived in for centuries. His struggles may well had been his peril, but as Nick and his fellow Penan explain, his legacy endures.