Monday, February 3, 2014

Why the hurry for more dams?

FMT Staff

February 3, 2014
Despite Bakun reportedly running at half its optimum, Murum in the impoundment process and slow take-up by industries, the state government is pushing ahead wth its plans for Baram and other dams.
MIRI: Something is wrong about Sarawak’s hydro-electricity plans. For one, Bakun power plant is running at just half its capacity, according to protestors at manning the anti-Baram dam blockades.
And there is also Batang Ai and Murum, the later currently being impounded.
Against this there continues to be a concerted push by the state government for 12 more dams, to be reportedly sited at Ulu Air, Metjawah, Belaga, Baleh, Belepeh, Lawas, Tutoh, Limbang, Baram, Murum and Linau rivers.  The plan includes an extension to the Batang Ai dam.
The construction of the world’s second tallest dam at Bakun was itself left questionable after earlier justifications for it were linked to the prospect of running undersea cables to Peninsular Malaysia and powering the rest of Borneo as well.   Both fell apart.
Questions continue to swirl around Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s massive projects when there is still no use for the power.
The Sarawak Corridor for Renewable Energy (Score) the reason for these dams, itself has failed to draw in the much speculated industrial giants.,
According to the news portal, Sarawak Report, Taib is “scouring the world for power-guzzling industries to relocate near Bakun, a prospect which many of the more reputation conscious companies, like Rio Tinto Alcan, have notably decided against”.
The Sarawak Electricity Board has nevertheless been saying that there is and will  be demand and further dams are needed as a point of urgency.
In which case why has teh capacity of the eight turbines at Bakun been down-graded? The total electricity generated now is just over half of the 2400MW capacity.
So what is the hurry for new dams?
Bakun is supposed to have eight turbines, each able to generate 300 MW of power and all the turbines were scheduled to have been installed by the end of last year.
Seven units are “already commissioned” but only six are reportedly in operation todate.
“But all six units are now running half load, powering 150MW each,”  said a source.
Inviting ‘dirty’ industries
The Sarawak government’s plan is to use up the huge quantities of power it will generate by inviting potentially “dirty” industries to relocate to the state.
Environmentalists however point out that Sarawak’s already mauled rivers will be destroyed once and for all.
But sources here said the planners at Score are determined to push ahead with their mega-project without doing an in-depth study on the possible consequences.
It has also been frequently pointed out by environmentalist that smaller scale hydropower plants to help local rural communities would be far more effective in providing an immediate improvement in people’s lives.
Sarawak, they said does not need more dams, and certainly not 12, which threaten the forest its people and the environment.
They said currently, Sarawak’s energy output is 933MW and it does not need any more energy.
However, there are plans to expand the aluminium-smelting industry in the state which will need the planned output.
Meanwhile those manning the blockade at Baram are determined that the dam project there will not go ahead.
Some members of the community were in Miri last week to celebrate 100 days of their successful blockade of the dam site.
The blockades have so far prevented SEB’s construction teams from starting work at two of the construction sites.
Local politicians aligned to the Sarawak government have also urged SEB to step back from the Baram project, because feelings are running high, for the time being.
~ Free Malaysia Today

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