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By Nancy Nais
LUNDU, Oct 30: Some 100 villagers from Kampung Perian have urged the authorities to stop a quarry and logging concessionaire next to their native customary right (NCR) land, claiming such activities have badly affected their water source.
The forest, located about one kilometer away which serves as a water catchment area for them, and the surrounding villages were contaminated by such activities in the area, until the water smells bad and murky.
Kampung Perian village head Mejir Abeng, 66, said to make matters worse, the Iban community village which has 93 houses with about 500 in population has yet to enjoy clean treated piped water since 1975.
“For 46 years, our village solely depended on water from the mountain (gravity feed) from our water catchment or collect rainwater for our daily use. As you can see, we are located just few meters away from the main road which is now part of the Pan Borneo Highway.
“We’ve been asking for one of the very basic need of any human being, clean treated water from our elected representatives for years, from the past ruling government assemblyman and parliamentarian, until the recent representatives who are the opposition,” Mejir told DayakDaily before a dialogue session between the villagers, community leaders and quarry management representatives, today.
Mejir acknowledged that he is aware of the said activities going on around his village area because the company has license to do so, but he explained that there are boundaries set between the approved area to log and the villagers NCR land.
“However, about a month ago, the quarry and logging activities have somehow encroached into our area and contaminated the water until it smells bad, turned brown and muddy. It has been challenging in the past few weeks for us.
“Do they realised, that they have polluted our source of water during rainy weather and made our taps run dry during the hot season?” he asked.
A catchment is an area where water is collected by the natural landscape, which can help to protect the rivers, groundwater environments and provides the community with clean consumable water, agriculture, habitat for plants and animals, and healthy vegetation.
When logging occurs, it will expose the land, causing surface erosion which will wash sediments into the rivers, causing water pollution and the shallowing of river beds.
One of the village representative who raised his concern during the dialogue said he has lived in the village since he was born, and that the dirty water had caused them so much difficulty and suffering.
“We have no choice but to use muddy water to bath and wash clothes. Most have no choice but to use it to cook as well. Do you expect us to drink polluted water which may cause health problems?
“Most of us are just farmers or daily paid general workers. We do not have the means to buy bottled mineral or filtered water everyday. Why are these people treating us like dirt? At times, I feel embarrassed being an Iban who gets treated like this for years by the government for not supplying clean treated water for our village, while my other relatives and friends who are staying much deeper in the rural area has this basic need,” he lamented.
They were also worried of the threats of diseases caused by the pollution.
Apart from that, they also alleged that their ‘rumah adat’ (spiritual hut) located next to the water catchment and the pipes which they made themselves to connect to their village were destroyed due to the activities.
The villagers had lodged a police report at Lundu police station recently.
Those who attended the dialogue today stood firm in supporting the demand to immediately stop the quarry and logging activities until a solution is made.
Community leader penghulu Andrew Simun later told the villagers to calm down and not to blame any parties for the time being while they investigate the incident.
“Today, we are here to hear from both sides and at the same time, let us discuss the problem properly with good heart,” Andrew said.
Meanwhile, the quarry and logging management representatives who attended the dialogue managed to convince the aggravated villagers that they will stop all activities for the time being.
While explaining their side of the story, the representatives also showed their legal permit to conduct quarry and logging activities on the said area.
After some negotiation together with community leaders and villagers, the representatives agreed to compensate RM40,000 for the villagers to repair their ‘rumah adat’ and pipes, while they will organise another dialogue session as soon as possible to settle the matter amicably. — DayakDaily