Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sarawak anti-dam activists take human rights, environment fight to Europe

BY DESMOND DAVIDSON
MAY 14, 2014
Three activists from the Save Sarawak Rivers, the non-governmental rights organisation that is opposed to the state's plan to build a series of hydro-electric dams, are now in Europe to take their case to European governments, the power companies involved in the dam project and civil society.
Their mission to Switzerland and Norway will be to demand that companies from these countries stop their cooperation with Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB) on its plan to build 12 mega-hydroelectric dams to generate the power the state projected it needed to transform itself into an industrialised state by the year 2030.
The activists, comprising Save Rivers chairman Peter Kallang (pic) and villagers Maria Ajang from Long Palai and Lah Jok from Long Liam – the two villages that would be affected by the planned Baram hydroelectric dam – are today in Zurich, Switzerland to meet senior executives at the Swiss multi-national corporation ABB.
The proposed Baram dam, designed to generate 1,300Mw of electricity, could submerge 400 sq km of land and displace 20,000 indigenous people – Kayan, Kenyah, Kelabit, Penan and even Iban – when built.
ABB, whose power technology know-how was used in the construction of the Bakun hydroelectric dam, is one of the largest engineering companies as well as one of the largest conglomerates in the world.
Save Rivers “European friends”, the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) which helped facilitate their trip, in a statement said the activists' meeting with civil society would be on alleged human rights abuses and environmental destruction the dam projects would bring.
BMF in the statement said the activists in their meeting with ABB top brass will inform them “how indigenous peoples are threatened by the proposed 12 mega-dams”.
The Swiss-based forest conservation NGO also claimed ABB, which has so far been reluctant to provide information about their role in the dam initiative, have promised to disclose details on their involvement in the Murum dam.
In their first stop in the Swiss capital Berne, the activists met with Swiss government officials to discuss the human rights aspects of an upcoming Free Trade Agreement between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Malaysia.
BMF said the activists raised “their concerns on human rights, environment and corruption in Malaysia” which they said should not be ignored in the agreement talks.
Next week, the Sarawak activists travel to Norway, one of the leading countries in hydropower development.
SEB heavily relies on Norwegian knowledge in hydropower for the dam projects.
The Norwegian CEO of SEB, Datuk Torstein Dale Sjøtveit, has reportedly engaged a Norwegian firm, Norconsult, for their engineering and design expertise.
Norconsult reportedly has provided essential studies on the Murum, Baram, Baleh and Pelagus dams. – May 14, 2014.
~ The Malaysian Insider

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