International NGO coalition condemns Malaysian dam plans
Largest Asian dam outside China: Sarawak's recently-completed 2,400 MW Bakun dam
(MIRI, SARAWAK/MALAYSIA) An international NGO coalition that includes organizations from the US, Norway and Switzerland is showing its solidarity with Malaysian groups who are protesting against the construction of twelve hydroelectric dams in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on Borneo. The NGO coalition supports the Malaysian groups’ demand for an immediate halt to the realization of these dams, which threaten to displace tens of thousands of Sarawak natives and flood hundreds of square miles of Sarawak’s precious tropical rainforests.
The Bruno Manser Fund, International Rivers (US), Borneo Project (US), Rainforest Action Network (US) and the Rainforest Foundation Norway are emphasizing the adverse social and ecological consequences of the planned dams and question their economic viability. Just a handful of companies connected to Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud and his family are likely to benefit from these projects, due to their involvement in the construction business, while the Sarawak public would have to cover the costs in form of long-term state debts.
At a press conference in Miri yesterday, the recently founded ‘Save Sarawak’s Rivers’ network, under the lead of its chairperson Peter Kallang, announced the start of the local protests against the planned twelve dams in the Sarawak rainforest: ‘The construction of the dams will not bring development to the people directly affected but it does bring severe and permanent damages to the whole environment and to the community at large. Development for the people must be for the immediate and above all, long term good of all the people and not just a few, who own shares in power generation and big corporations.’
The Save Sarawak Rivers Network was formed in October 2011 by people affected by the planned or already realized dams together with concerned individuals and local NGOS in order to fight the construction of mega-dams and protect the rivers of Sarawak – the lifeline of its peoples. A first conference will be held in Miri, Sarawak, from 16 to 18 February 2012. Native communities affected by the dam projects will gather to share information, raise awareness and coordinate their state-wide struggle against the twelve planned dams. The conference will voice the disagreement of the Sarawakians, and especially that of the affected communities, with their government's policy of building the proposed dams without giving them a chance to express their opinion on these projects.
With the completion of the largest dam in Asia outside of China, the Bakun dam, with its capacity of 2,400 Megawatts and the additional 900-Megawatt Murum dam, which is currently under construction, Sarawak will be producing massive amounts of surplus power. The state’s current electricity consumption only rises to 972 Megawatts during periods of peak demand.
Experience with the recently-completed Bakun dam has shown the unwillingness of the Sarawak state government to comply with international human rights and environmental standards such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Close to ten thousand natives of the Bakun river system were displaced without having been properly consulted and compensated. Transparency International even labeled the highly controversial Bakun dam a “Monument of Corruption”.
(15th February 2012)