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MIRI – The Daughters of St Paul (aka Pauline Sisters) took time off to visit those “in the peripheries” in Asap Belaga recently. In line with their centenary outreach programme, the Sisters made the visit from 24 Oct to 3 Dec 2015. Over the monthlong mission Sr Magdalene Chong and Sr Bibianah Dunsia were able to conduct book displays in St Joseph Cathedral Miri, Mater Dei Church Lutong, St Dominic Taman Tunku, St Francis Xavier Belaga, and SMK Bakun. But most of the time they accompanied the parish priest, Fr Sylvester Ding Ibau to visit the Penans in their long houses in Sg Asap Belaga.
Sungai Asap resettlement scheme was established in 1998 to accommodate some 15,000 people from 15 longhouses, who had to be relocated from their original villages in Balui River, to make way for the Bakun Hydro project, while Belaga is the administrative centre for the whole district.
The Penans are hunter-gatherers living in the rainforests of the interior of Sarawak. Traditionally nomadic, most of the 10-12,000 Penan now live in settled communities, but continue to rely on the forest for their existence. Some still live largely nomadically. Not all Penans are literate. Nor are they well off. So it was quite a challenge to diffuse any literature to them. Most of the time, the Sisters had to exercise the apostolate of presence. However, at the Uma Nyaving Long House, the Sisters were able to hold a book mission as well as three night sessions with Sunday School children. Overall, the Sisters were able to visit seven long houses, one school, and seven churches/chapels.
Belaga is situated at the confluence of Belaga River and Balui River. About 37 km beyond and up river of Balui is Bakun Hydro Dam. Bakun Hydro Dam is located right at the confluence of Bintulu-Bakun Highway and Sibu-Kapit-Belaga-Bakun express boats ply the route along the Rejang River.
The hydro dam is projected to supply cheap electricity power for the country and even being proposed to be exported to neighbouring countries such like Brunei, Indonesia and even to Thailand. Bakun is part of Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE), which encompassing an area of 70,000 sq km.
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, few kilometres upstream of Belaga town, measures about 14,759 sq km, and that is equivalent in size of 12% of the state of Sarawak, putting it the largest inland man-made lake in South East Asia.