Dams for the future, damn the past

Malaysians may be shocked by the sheer greed and dishonesty of the individuals and companies involved. But what is unpalatable is when ROS acts as a bully for the state.

By Mariam Mokhtar, Malaysian Mirror

When I first flew over Sarawak, about two decades ago, the tree-tops, from above, looked like a carpet of tempting green broccoli.

Today, the landscape resembles a scarred battleground. Deep troughs, gouged out of the land, expose red-orange soil. Logging activities scatter trees like ten-pins. Green land masses stretching to the horizon, display spiral patterns from the regimented planting of only one type of tree. Oil palm has displaced the native species.

Back then, the bus journey from Miri to Batu Niah, was an exciting bumpy ride with occasional hair-raising bends, steep gradients or deep ravines on either side of the road. Our travelling companions were the people and their livestock, living along the route.

Today, the pan-Borneo highway is a major artery and channels development into the countryside. Nevertheless, there are reports that this major road is a dirt track in places. Bad lighting, terrible communication systems and highway robberies are common. So much for development!

My first visit to a longhouse then, was a two-hour trek along a belian walkway. We gathered ferns and fresh-water snails, en-route for dinner. Food, from nature’s bounty, was plentiful.

Our arrival was greeted with much gaiety. When my host presented me with a chicken to slaughter, I didn’t know which was more petrified – the squawking chicken or me, with the knife that was placed in my hands. I was touched by the Ibans’ kind gestures and concern over my religious dietary obligations.

Today, the reality is depressing

The following morning, we washed in the clear, fast flowing river. The water was teeming with life, and later, we feasted on fish and fruits, harvested from the river-bank. We hurried quietly but respectfully past sacred burial grounds before checking the ripening golden crop in the nearby padi fields.

Today, the reality is depressing.

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