Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Despite protests, Sarawak will pursue hydroelectric dams, says chief minister

Published: 2 July 2014

Sarawak’s mega-hydroelectric dam projects are in full swing as the state government plans to use them as the backbone of an energy-intensive programme that will see it become a high-income state by 2030.
Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem (pic) said there is no stopping these programmes and whether the non-governmental organisations (NGO) in the state agreed or not, it will continue with the policy started by his predecessor, Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud.
Adenan said more dams are needed as the power generated from the current two – the 2,400-megawatt (Mw) Bakun dam and the recently-completed 944Mw Murum dam – have all been taken up and there is a demand for more power. 
He said this yesterday at a ceremony to mark the Ministry of Public Utilities 10th anniversary.

The Murum dam, located on the Murum River which is in the uppermost part of the Rajang River basin, is currently impounding its reservoir.

The first generator could be operational later in the year with all generators operational early next year.

The Bakun dam, which came online in August 2011, is fully operational.

The Sarawak government plans to build up to 12 such dams under an energy-intensive programme that it believes will attract key industries to invest in the state and turn it into an industrialised, high-income one in the future.

These power-guzzling industries are located at the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (Score), the area in central Sarawak stretches from Mukah to the oil and gas town of Bintulu.

The Minister for Public Utilities Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan said the state had increased its firm generation capacity from 900Mw in 2004 to 2,347Mw this year – a three-fold increase to meet domestic consumer needs and that of the Score customers.

The next two dams Sarawak plans to build have been earmarked for the Baram River and at Baleh on the Rajang River, just upriver from the trading town of Kapit.

Both are thought to have the capacity to generate 1,200Mw of electricity.

The proposal for the dam in Baram has been strongly opposed by about 20,000 people who would have to be relocated as it would submerge some 400 sq km of land.

Leading the opposition is the local NGO, Save Rivers, a grassroots network of indigenous communities and civil society organisations in the state, working to protect human rights by stopping the construction of the dams.

Its campaign so far had successfully disrupted preliminary work and the three blockades they had erected had kept workers and machineries out of the proposed dam site.

The blockade erected near Long Lama to prevent the construction of the access road to the dam had entered its 250th day.

Save Rivers and opponents of the projects marked the day with the “ngiling tikai” (roll the mats in Iban) celebration that signals the end of the month long Gawai Dayak, or the Dayak harvest festival.

Brushing aside Save Rivers, Adenan said people in rural settlements who are still without electricity, are “not interested in human rights”.

“They are more concerned with their rights to fresh water and electricity,” he added. – July 2, 2014.

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