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Sarawak's 12 New Dams Alarm Environmentalists
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Fauwaz Abdul Aziz | Jun 19, 08 1:46pm

Sarawak has proposed to build 12 massive dams in the next decade to harness its hydroelectric power, putting the state in a collision course with environmentalists.

The bold plan, which has not been made public, has irked activists who fear further destruction to Sarawak’s rainforests - considered as one of the world’s oldest - and the forcible relocation of thousands of indigenous peoples.

While the state does not need more power, it hopes to generate electricity for energy-guzzling industries and for export - both to Peninsular Malaysia and neighbouring Indonesia.

Half of the power produced by the controversial Bakun dam is expected to be consumed by an aluminum smelter to be built in Bintulu by mining multinational Rio Tinto, while the rest will be transported to Peninsular Malaysia through undersea cables.

Document made public ‘accidentally’

Sarawak’s bold ambition of generating a colossal 7,000MW of electricity between 2008 and 2020 - which include the 2,400MW Bakun dam - was unwittingly revealed in document made available on a China-based website.

The document appeared to be a slide presentation made by Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) managing director Abdul Aziz Husain in October last year at the China-Asean Power Cooperation and Development Forum in Nanning, China.

According to Abdul Aziz, Sarawak's rivers have the potential to generate a total of 20,000KW of power.

Published ‘accidentally’ on the website dedicated to the international forum, it was discovered by Switzerland-based NGO Bruno Manser Fonds (BMF).

According to BMF, an organisation set up by Swiss environmentalist Burno Manser who spent six years with Sarawak’s Penan and subsequently went missing in 2000, the document has since been removed.

But before the document was taken down, BMF was able to make a copy and it is now made available on the organisation’s website [available as PDF file].

A quick search on the Internet revealed such a document - entitled ‘Chinese Power Plants in Malaysia – Present & Future Development’ - had existed, but can no longer be found.

Mulu National Park at risk

The 48-page document provides the specific locations of the 12 new hydropower plants, aside from Bakun dam, which is to be completed in 2010.

The construction of the RM3.2 billion Bakun dam - the region’s largest dam - wiped out a swatch of rainforests the size of Singapore and displaced 10,000 indigenous peoples.

Understandably, environmentalists fear the worst on hearing the state government’s proposal for another dozen of hydropower plants.

If the plan, described by BMF as “excessive”, is to proceed, hundreds of Sarawak’s native communities in Sarawak’s interior will lose their traditional lands and have to be relocated to elsewhere.

“It is to be expected that all of the proposed dams will adversely affect indigenous communities living in Borneo's unique tropical rainforest environment,” warned BMF in a press statement.

National treasures such as the world-renowned Mulu National Park may also fall victim when parts of it will be submerged under the planned 220 megawatts dam on the Tutoh river in northeastern Sarawak.

The Mulu National Park is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) as a world heritage site because of its biodiversity and its extensive network of caves.

No public participation in EIAs

BMF slammed the state government for its lack of transparency in land and forest matters, pointing out that Sarawak legislation does not obligate developers to include public participation in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process.

The NGO also decried that the natives, as in the past, are likely to be “doomed to pay the price for the production of export energy”.

None of SEB’s top officials, including Abdul Aziz, could be reached for comments.

Meanwhile, state DAP deputy chairperson Chiew Chin Sing said the state government should put the interests of Sarawak people before those of multinational corporations.

The Kidurong state assemblyperson added that delivering electricity through 700km of undersea cables to Peninsular Malaysia would result in tremendous wastage.

“Also we cannot deny the indigenous communities their right to their land,” Chiew told Malaysiakini yesterday.

Source

Posted on: 2008/6/19 14:20
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Re: Sarawak's 12 New Dams Alarm Environmentalists
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12 dams?? Whoaa... are they out of their minds?? Do we even have the space for that many, despite the vastness of our state?? Geez..

Posted on: 2008/6/19 14:25
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Re: Sarawak's 12 New Dams Alarm Environmentalists
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so many dam but still our tariffs more expensive than semenajung's.. what the heck so many dam for??

Posted on: 2008/6/19 15:45
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Re: Sarawak's 12 New Dams Alarm Environmentalists
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Wasn't this already common knowledge? I thought we knew about this for a very, very long time; hell I put these details in [stuff].

Keep in mind, not all these dams will be mega-dams like Bakun. Some would be small, some medium scale, some like Batang Ai, some like Bengoh. Sarawak is big, but keep in mind, the costs of building multiple Bakun-grade dams would be not only scary, it could easily pay for everyone in Sarawak to get a doctorate degree in the UK, including accommodation and other expenses, with current pound-to-ringgit rates.

Lack of transparency and looking for information is impossible in Malaysia, let alone Sarawak. If you can't find details on simple development projects done by the private sector, don't expect information on large scale, earth-moving endeavors.

Posted on: 2008/6/19 15:57
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Re: Sarawak's 12 New Dams Alarm Environmentalists
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The high energy cost is detering the industrial development in developing country and key contribution to a rising inflation. Although Malaysia is a oild producing country but the resources is depleting and will run out soon. The rising price of crude oil will be seroiusly affecting the industry if alternative energy source is not utilised.

The Malaysian government has been profiting from the oil and gas revenue of Sarawak. Little of the revenue came back for development of the state. The public ransportation in Sarawak is almost non existence.

The Malaysian government see another opportunity of capitalizing on the rivers of Sarawak to replace the rising fuel cost. The selfish act of the federal government is sacrifising the right of Sarawakians where our lands will be drowned and irrecoverable damage done to our precious rainforest in the name of development which will never benefit the state.

I hope that Sarawakian has learn from the previous exploitation of oil and gas resources by the federal government. We shall said no to the water dams that will taken away thousand of hectar of our lands for supplying electricity to the peninsula. I hope that Sarawakians will grow up and realise the selfish motive of the federal government and not let the "dogs" sold off our lands.

Posted on: 2008/6/19 20:00
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Re: Sarawak's 12 New Dams Alarm Environmentalists
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Not 'common knowledge' to me, as I've never heard abt it till today. >_>

Even if they're smaller dams... that will still impact the ecological systems around the areas they're gonna build the dams.

No wonder the environmentalists are making noises..

Posted on: 2008/6/19 22:00
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Re: Sarawak's 12 New Dams Alarm Environmentalists
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Malaysia will turn into Nigeria in no time.

Posted on: 2008/6/19 22:12
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Re: Sarawak's 12 New Dams Alarm Environmentalists
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A country with so much resources, so many opportunities, had it been done right, it would have been a sight to behold. Let's just hope Sarawak Energy has the sense to charge double to West Malaysian consumers what Sarawakians pay currently, though this is only a pipe dream.

I honestly thought all these proposed dams were common knowledge, that's why I was so surprised when this popped up as breaking news.

Though sadly, I have to admit, the NGOs and environmentalists will always think of something new to protest about in developing countries. True, there is a degree of truth, but from a certain perspective, we look like novel things, harmless natives living in trees that need to be protected by the jaded, wiser NGOs in 'those countries.'

However, that withstanding, Sarawak is pretty much being milked dry at the moment. A land full of resources, yet so little gets back to our shores. 45 years yet we don't have a proper highway linking Kuching to Miri but over there, they have countless mutli-lane mega-highways linking backwaters.

Posted on: 2008/6/19 22:46
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Re: Sarawak's 12 New Dams Alarm Environmentalists
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we have been milked yeah! or sucked dry by vampire! from

Posted on: 2008/6/19 23:20
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Re: Sarawak's 12 New Dams Alarm Environmentalists
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there's a dam under construction in a kampong on the way to Borneo Heights, do any1 know about it?

if no1 knows, the gorvernment is being very subtle about it..

Posted on: 2008/6/20 0:17
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