Following the cancellation of the Baram Dam, the communities of Baram are proud to announce the launch of the Baram Conservation Initiative.
(Baram/Miri/Sarawak/Malaysia) The Baram Conservation Initiative is a community driven effort that intends to protect the rainforest, establish sustainable livelihood systems, and prevent the expansion of large scale commercial agriculture and extractive industries in the region. The initiative was officially launched today at a press conference in Miri.
The Initiative will take a two-prong approach to sustainable rural development of the Baram region: (1) through securing land rights and territories for indigenous communities, and (2) by designing community-centered alternative development models. Secure land tenure is crucial in the conservation of the forestland and the preservation of indigenous cultural heritage. Addressing the importance of community participation in development, Peter Kallang of Save Rivers says, “we stress the need for the inclusion of the Free Prior Informed Consent of affected local communities in any development plan. This is in accordance to the UN Declaration of Human Rights”.
As part of the community-centered development approach, alternative rural electrification options, including micro-hydro and solar, are currently being explored in the Middle Baram, where communities have been actively resisting the Baram Dam. "The people need to determine what type of development they want. In our kampong we built a micro-hydro and solar system. This is the kind of energy that should be implemented, not only in our kampong but also in other places in Baram, where it does not make any destruction for the people," says James Nyurang of Lepo Gah, Tanjung Tepalit, a Kenyah village in the Middle Baram.
In addition, the initiative is supporting efforts to protect 280,000 hectares of forest land through the Taman Damai Baram (Baram Peace Park) in the Upper Baram. The proposal for the Taman Damai Baram has been well received so far by both grassroots communities and government agencies, including the Sarawak Forest Department. "We, the communities of Upper Baram, are very keen on realizing the Taman Damai Baram and hope that the government will join our efforts to protect our forests and develop alternative income sources," says Nick Kelesau, a Penan from Long Kerong and member of Keruan Association. In line with the government’s commitment to conservation and community, the Taman Damai Baram will be jointly managed by the communities of the Upper Baram in collaboration with the public sector.
One of the many forums that the Initiative is organizing to raise awareness and consult the community is the Save Rivers 5-Year Anniversary Conference. Entitled “Development without Destruction,” the conference will take place October 22nd 2016 at the Grand Palace Hotel in Miri, Sarawak.
The Baram Conservation Initiative is facilitated by the Save Rivers Network, Keruan Organisation, The Borneo Project, and the Bruno Manser Fund.