Ancient ancestral land flooded out by dam

The ancient historic sites in the Balui Vally in Sarawak is set to forever lose its historic sites next month with the completion of a dam. The region is historically significant for the Kayan, Kenyah and Penan tribes who inhabit the area.

Centuries-old heritage in Balui valley to be submerged next month
The Star, 10 September 2009

An important chunk of Sarawak’s ancient history in Bakun in the heart of Borneo – depicting epic battles between the warring tribes during the head-hunting era and the numerous uprisings against colonial masters – will be buried underwater from next month when the Bakun dam reservoir starts to take in water.

Come October, the Balui River will be dammed and the entire Balui valley measuring 64,000ha (the size of Singapore) will be slowly drowned under 210m of water, and with it, a history that dates back centuries.

Bakun community chief Penghulu Saging Bit told The Star that the region is home to some of the most fascinating history of the Kayans, Kenyahs and Penans.

Bakun dam developer Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd is in the midst of salvaging as much of the endangered plants and animals in Bakun as possible, but sadly, the physical history and ancient historical sites will be beyond salvaging.


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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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