Former dam project director says safety and environmental compliance standards of Baleh and Baram dam project are obsolete.
KUCHING: People living downriver from the existing and proposed dams in Sarawak might be exposed to fates similar to the victims of the recent Cameron Highlands disaster.
NGO Save Rivers Network Sarawak president Peter Kallang claimed this was because the safety and environmental compliance standards in the state were out of date.
Having agreed that standard operating procedures (SOPs) for dams in Sarawak should undergo a serious review following the Cameron Highlands tragedy, Kallang told FMT that the fact (obsolete standards) was acknowledged by the very man that was supposed to direct the building of three of the proposed dams.
“Andrew Pattle, who was the construction director for Murum Dam, and was supposed to direct constructions of the Baleh and Baram dams as well, had said in a Hydro Tasmania annual report that safety and environmental compliance of dam-building in Malaysia were not given much concern.
“He also said what is currently being practised here had actually been used in Australia decades ago,” Kallang told FMT when contacted.
Pattle, a long-term Hydro Tasmania executive, was actually “on loan” from the Australian corporation to Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB) to assist the Sarawak state government realise its dam programme.
The Australian was made the project director of the 1,250 megawatt Baram and Baleh dam projects as well as the 944 megawatt Murum Dam.
Pattle, however, left the controversial dam programme in November.
The Bruno Manser Fund speculated that his swift exit from Sarawak was a hint that Hydro Tasmania’s employees were starting to sense the strain from a successful international campaign against the Sarawak dam programme.
“Constructions made by man will always have faults. Anything can have problems and human errors do happen,” Kallang said about the proposed dams.
He further said that the existing safety and environmental compliance standards for dam-building practised in Sarawak were already archaic and should no longer be used in advanced countries, which Malaysia should not be excluded even though it was a developing country.
“In relation to the (Cameron Highlands) disaster, it shows that they have problems with the operating procedures. But here in Sarawak, they may have problems with the construction procedures. They (the procedures) are obviously faulty.
“Therefore, the people living downriver from the dams are exposed to potential dangers,” Kallang said. Cameron Highlands tragedy
Three died in a flash flood last week after the Bertam River burst its banks when water was released from the Sultan Abu Bakar Dam in Ringlet, Cameron Highlands on early Wednesday morning.
About 80 houses on the fringes of the Bertam River were swept away by strong currents after the river abruptly overflowed when water from the dam was released.
It was reported that water from the dam in Ringlet had to be released to prevent the dam from bursting, following incessant heavy rains since 7pm the day before.
The first release of the water was made at midnight, then at 1am and 2.45am which caused the Bertam River to burst its banks and caused the flash flood.
Meanwhile, Kallang also updated FMT on the blockade staged by the protesting native landowners in Baram.
He said in the early evening yesterday, all the construction workers’ machinery had left Long Lama, where a group of natives had blocked the cement trucks and stopped the workers from constructing the access road to the proposed Baram dam much earlier.
As he was talking to FMT at 5.30pm yesterday, Kallang said two tractors and four excavators were being moved out of the area.
“At the moment, only 30 Land and Survey staff and 15 police personnel remained at Long Lama. They said they will leave this place tomorrow (today),” Kallang said, adding that the blockade was staged by about 100 natives of Kenyah, Kayan and Penan ethnicity from Baram.
Earlier today, Kallang sent press alerts to the media, informing that the Land and Survey staff and police had left the site.
The projected RM4 billion Baram Hydroelectric dam project was part of the Sarawak government’s Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (Score) project and its reservoir would eventually usurp 39,000 ha of land where no less than 20,000 people from the 26 longhouse communities would be relocated upon the dam’s completion.