Posts Tagged ‘Dams
The principles in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, which require governments to, inter alia, obtain the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous people before implementing development projects and programmes within or over their territory. We have noted that these principles have not been complied with by the Sarawak Government and the SEB in the case of the controversial Murum Dam, now under construction, and the proposed Baram Dam.
Informal briefing sessions for a few selected community leaders and individuals, carried out by the Sarawak Government and SEB in the case of the Murum Dam and recently in Miri for the Baram Dam, cannot be considered as “free, prior and informed consent” of or by the affected indigenous population in Murum and Baram. Those attending were merely individuals who were not authorised by all the residents of their respective longhouses to speak or decide for them.
There is no need to build these 12 new dams, including the hugely unpopular Baram Dam, in Sarawak. To do so would result in Sarawak registering a huge surplus of energy of more than 600 per cent.
Even the federal Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Peter Chin has recently stated that “Sarawak is going to have a surplus power for a long time once the Bakun Dam goes on line”.
The building of these 12 new dams would also adversely affects Sarawak’s financial standing in the future. At the current rate, each of these dams costs at least RM3bn to build and the 12 would cost the state at least RM36bn, excluding the usual huge cost overruns typical of such projects.
Further, all the problems caused by the Batang Ai Dam have not yet been resolved, and the problems faced by the displaced communities in Bakum and Murum are mounting by the day. Under the circumstances, it is therefore utterly unjustifiable and totally irrational for the Sarawak state government to keep building more dams throughout the state.
For the above reasons, we wish to hereby state that we strongly oppose the construction of the highly controversial Baram Dam and all the other proposed 10 dams and we call upon the Sarawak state government to stop its plan to build the dams.
Plans to build 12 new dams in Sarawak, allegedly to meet power demands for decades to come, have recently been uncovered despite the fact that the state has 20 percent more capacity than it needs now – before the controversial Bakun Dam comes online in 2011, bringing with it even more overcapacity.
When news of the projects became public, environmentalists were up in arms. The two existing dams in Sarawak, Batang Ai Dam completed and Bakun Dam nearing completion, were accompanied by a range of widely publicized socio-economic and environmental repercussions worrying enough for the anti-dam faction to exhibit public outrage.
Environmentalists have also repeatedly highlighted that the construction of the Bakun dam was due to vested political interests and grandiose plans of the then-prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad and Chief Minister of Sarawak Taib Mahmud. In 1994, the contract was awarded by the Sarawak government without tender to Ekran Berhad, a construction company owned by Ting Pek Khiing, a close ally to both leaders. Ting himself was a timber businessman, with no experience in dam construction. Subsequently, the project was shelved because of the financial crisis and Ekran’s problems with its contractors.
The state cites rising fossil fuel prices which make energy sources generated from dams economically more viable. But for Sarawak, supplying energy from Bakun to the peninsula may not be viable as estimates have put the costs to as high as 30 sen (US 9 cents) per kilowatt hour if the undersea cable is completed. Currently, Tenaga only pays RM 17 sen for each kilowatt of energy. Furthermore, Sarawak already currently has 20 percent overcapacity in its electricity supplies (it has 900 MW but only consumes 700 MW excluding the 2400 MW energy that will be supplied when the Bakun dam is completed). And Peninsula Malaysia has about 30 percent overcapacity in its present energy demands.
So where does this lead to? Should the state government carry on as usual and go about constructing the new dams in spite of concerns expressed by environmentalists?