About 150 Temiar Orang Asli from Kelantan has organised a demonstration in front of the Prime Minister’s Office Complex at Putrajaya on Tuesday (7 June).
The group, known as Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Kelantan (JKOAK), protested the building of the RM5 billion Nenggiri hydroelectric dam that would flood their kampung and the forests.
In a memorandum posted on Facebook, the group said the hydro dam would submerge 4 Orang Asli settlements, which are Pos Tohoi, Pos Pulat, Kampung Wias, and Kampung Bering, and flood 5,384 hectares of forest land.
According to Malay Mail, the group were seen in their traditional headgear made from woven leaves and flowers as they sang songs and held up hand-drawn banners, demanding the government to cancel the Sungai Nenggiri dam project.
“We ask the state and local governments, and Tenaga Nasional to cancel this project because it won’t solve the flood, drought, and electricity supply issues that the dam is intended to,” Mustafa Along, chairman of Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Kelantan and the organiser of today’s demonstration, said into a loudspeaker.”
“We also want the relevant authorities to stop all logging and mining activities related to it because they are the main causes for floods and droughts in our state,” Mustafa Along, chairman of Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Kelantan was quoted as saying by Malay Mail.
Mustafa added the Orang Asli has not benefitted from the proposed hydroelectric dam project so far despite the promises given by the government in the past.
The members of their community also express their worries about losing their customary way of life, such as foraging and hunting in the rainforests that have been home to their ancestors.
Meanwhile, the group has handed over their memorandum to a representative from the prime minister’s office and the political secretary of the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources Syahir Sulaiman.
The demonstration ended in front of the Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) office in Kuala Lumpur.
The group then urged the government to look for alternatives that will cause less damage to the forest, such as building smaller hydro dams in several areas such as Machang, Tanah Merah and Pasir Mas to manage floods and drought seasons, as suggested by the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (JPS).
They also urged the government and TNB to choose other energy sources that are much more environmentally friendly rather than destroying nature.
According to The Malaysian Reserve, the Nenggiri Gua Musang Dam in Kelantan would offer several benefits to the residents of the state such as flood mitigation, creating employment opportunities and other new economic opportunities in its main reservoir lake.
In addition, it would also collect a large amount of water in the main reservoir lake before it gets released in a controlled manner into the Nenggiri River. The project is expected to be completed in 2026.