Natives demand logging near Mulu Unesco heritage site to stop immediately

Blockades set up by the local communities on March 12, 2019.

KUCHING, March 17: The Berawans, Terings and Penans in Mulu claimed that logging operations are still going on near the Gunung Mulu Unesco World Heritage Site and demanded it be stopped immediately.

Mulu United Land Action (Mula) spokesperson Willie Kajan said the natives also wanted heavy machinery to be removed from the disputed areas.

In a press statement today, Willie claimed they recently stopped two bulldozers and also recorded video footage of the ongoing logging operations.

“The driver claimed he was just maintaining the road but admitted later that he was instructed by his supervisor to continue bulldozing trees on Berawan, Tering and Penan land.

“Thousands of trees have been felled illegally on our land and can be seen lying on the ground. The logged area is now barren. Nothing can replace the trees that have been felled and destroyed. The wildlife has lost their homes.

“It would take at least a century for the original trees to grow back. This is such a huge loss,” he reckoned.

Willie alleged that last Thursday, the Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) refused to give the Environmental Impact Assessment for Lot 2 and 3 of the private company’s concession to Ukau Lupung, the headman of the affected Penan community.

“Ukau and his son had travelled to Kuching from Mulu to get hold of these documents, which are compulsory before any deforestation activities are undertaken,” said Willie.

Ukau said the local communities were disappointed that the Sarawak government did not play by the rules and unduly favoured the company’s interests instead of listening to them.

“We have been on this land for generations and now we are not even given any information or consulted on what is going on,” he said.

He pointed out that none of the three core issues with regards to the land — native customary rights (NCR) over the land, the impact on water catchment area, and encroachment on ancestral burial grounds — were addressed.

“We have never been consulted on what is going on on our land and totally disagree with these actions. We call on the company to immediately stop all activities and we give them seven days to remove their machinery from our land,” said Willie and Ukau.

The local communities expressed concern that deforestation might impact the biodiversity, flora and fauna and natural wildlife that are endemic in the area. This could impact the local tourism industry, which is the livelihood of the local indigenous communities in Mulu. The local natives provide long boats, guiding and homestay accommodation and other tourism services.

The Mulu Park and Mulu Marriott Resort businesses would also be affected, Willie said.

“Would tourists from all over the world like to visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site with lifeless, polluted rivers? How would the bat population be affected in Mulu? These bats fly as far as to Brunei to forage for food. The nightly exodus of millions of bats are one of the key attractions of Mulu,” said Willie.

Ukau chipped in, “The forest is our lifeline as it is equal to a ‘supermarket’ and a ‘bank’ to the Penan, Berawan and Tering communities. We need the forest to survive as we hunt and forage the forest for our food and medicinal plants. It is also a source of natural materials that we use in our daily lives. We also plant fruit trees and our harvests are sold,” said Ukau.

He claimed that the land that had been granted to the private company was also a corridor between the Gunung Mulu UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Brunei forests.

“This corridor is the only area where the Penan, Berawan and Tering communities can hunt and forage as they cannot do so within the area of Mulu National Park.

“In addition, the wildlife traverse through the corridor as a migratory route between Mulu Park and the Brunei forests.”

Mulu assemblyman Dato Gerawat Gala could not be reached for comments. — DayakDaily