BELAGA, MALAYSIA – People living in Belaga, among the most remote districts in Malaysia, are looking forward to the completion of the Bakun hydroelectric project to generate a new economic activity – tourism.
Belaga assemblyman Liwan Lagang said the project, which was expected to be completed in December, would change the landscape in the district.
“There will be a lot of new islands created (once the water level at the Bakun Dam is raised), providing new potential for the people here to promote them to anglers and eco-tourists.
“More people will be involved in the tourism industry,” he said.
He said although there were already tourism activities in Belaga, these had yet to achieve the economies of scale that could yield better profits for the locals.
The 205m-high Bakun hydroelectric dam, which creates a reservoir of water measuring 695 sq km, is the second tallest concrete rock-filled dam in the world. It will have the capacity to generate 2,400MW of power.
The entire Bakun catchment area, situated at the Balui River, about 37km upstream of Belaga town, measures about 14,759 sq km, which is equivalent in size to 12% of Sarawak.
Several longhouses, particularly within the Sungai Asap Resettlement Scheme, have started promoting homestay programmes in recent years.
The resettlement scheme was established in 1998 to accommodate some 15,000 people who had to be relocated from their villages in Balui River, Belaga, to make way for the project.
Uma Belor is one of the longhouses at the scheme offering homestay to tourists, having converted 16 of their 101 rooms into guest rooms.
The longhouse’s security and development committee secretary Nora Igang said its “Leo Dian Homestay” was meant to generate new sources of income for the villagers, who are from the Kayan ethnic group.
“We also want to contribute more significantly to the development of the country’s tourism sector, especially when there is a lot more that people can learn about us and our culture,” she added.