Electricity supply remains a stalled dream for those living in shadow of Batang Ai dam

Johnny Guyang (left) and Jabu Luyau.

By D’Drift Team

LEBUK ANTU, July 12: A metallic, lonely-looking electricity pole stands on its own, quite distinctive among the secondary forest surrounding it, the tranquil Batang Ai lake below it and the longhouse that bends like Beckham, Nanga Ukom beside it.

The pole is awkward as it is not linked to anything.

Obviously, the issues faced by Rumah Nanga Ukom residents near Batang Ai Hydro-electric Power Dam are similar to those faced by those residing in the vicinity of Bengoh Dam, despite the fact that the latter was built some 40 years later.

Like Bengoh Dam, when the Batang Ai dam was constructed, there were those who agreed to be relocated and others who refused and chose to remain living on their ancestral land, even after impoundment.

For those who stayed, they continued to face issues in terms of accessing basic amenities. There is no electricity, treated water and roads, despite being within the vicinity of an energy-producing dam.

For some villagers, this is an irony as they had sacrificed so much for the dam, yet they do not even get the chance to enjoy its benefits. For them, after decades of requesting to be connected with electricity supply and failing, they have given up, resigned to living with whatever is available to them.

In 2019, there seemed to be some hope that the long-standing issue would be settled as six electricity poles were erected near the longhouse. Time passed, however, and nothing happened.

Despite going through all the politicians, from the late Youth and Sports Assistant Minister Datuk Dublin Unting (former Batang Ai assemblyman), Jawah Gerand (former Lubok Antu MP), Datuk William Nyalau (former Lubok Antu MP), and current elected representatives Datuk Malcolm Mussen Lamoh (Batang Ai assemblyman and Jugah Muyang (Lubok Antu MP), the issue remains. The only difference has been that the electricity pole has been erected.

Some villagers suspect that some landowners asking for compensation for the erecting of electricity poles on their land has led to delays in electrification of the area.

Jabu Luyau, the secretary of Nanga Ukom Development and Security Committee said there was no such issue at Nanga Ukom. The lonely electricity pole is as much a mystery to him as to the D’Drift Team which arrived in the area only yesterday. He, however, disagreed with those from other longhouses who did it.

There were 40 doors at Nanga Ukom before the dam impoundment. After the impoundment, 20 doors who agreed to relocate, moved out and moved on. Those who chose to stay behind continued their lives here, with expanding families taking up the doors left vacant by those who left.

Currently, there are 37 doors despite the lack of basic amenities.

Jabu who moved into the longhouse about 20 years ago after marrying a local girl, and his fellow longhouse resident Johnny Guyang, 40, are both contented with the life here.

“Life here is good. We plant our own paddy and it is enough for our subsistence. We have other cash crops such as rubber and pepper. We are all farmers here. We go hunting to get meat. We go fishing for the fish. We have everything here,” Jabu told the D’Drift Team. — DayakDaily