KUCHING: Save Rivers Network stated yesterday that it was not against the construction of hydroelectric power (HEP) dams but advocates micro and mini HEP dams that could still produce enough energy to power the state’s industrialisation programme.
Save Rivers Network chairman Peter Kallang stressed that it was aware that the time would come when Sarawak would need more energy in its push for industrialisation.
“When that time comes, the government should develop energy source that must be people-centered and environmentally friendly. The implementation of such power plants must be based on accepted international principles, such as technical and social aspects, especially the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as stated in the UN declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
“If the government wants these powers to be from hydroelectric, the preferred models are micro or small dams, which would bring development to the people in the rural areas of Sarawak,” Kallang told The Borneo Post here yesterday.
He said based on his experience, one good example is the Alter HEP Dam in northern part of Norway, where the indigenous Sammy community lives.
“They depend on the land to raise reindeer and river for salmon fishing. When the Alter dam was finally built, the people’s interest and environment were given due consideration,” he said.
Kallang was responding to Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) chief executive officer Datuk Torstein Dale Sjotveit’s defence of constructing mega dams in Sarawak in his recent statement, which was published on front page of The Borneo Post.
Meanwhile, Save River and four other non-governmental organisation (NGOs); namely the Borneo Research Institute Malaysia (Brimas), Jaringan Orang Asal Se-Malaysia (Joas), Gerakan Anak Sarawak (Gasak) and Jaringan Tanah Had Adat Bangsa Asal Sarawak (Tahabas) issued a statement here yesterday that SEB was morally, socially, ethically and legally obliged to respect the rights of indigenous peoples who are affected by the dams – especially those who have persistently expressed their objection to such projects.
On the SEB’s assertion that the resettlement of people affected by dams could improve their livelihood, the NGOs replied that the SEB had yet to demonstrate they could manage resettlement in a way respected fundamental principles outlined in the human rights treaties – to which Malaysia was a signatory.
For example, the Penan and Kenyah community who were displaced by the Murum Dam had yet to learn where the land allocations they had been promised were located and still had no access to any local schools or a health clinic that could serve their needs, the NGOs stressed.
On the SEB’s claim that the damming of the river would stop flooding in certain locations, the NGOs responded that it was not grounded in any studies
Recently, former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in his keynote address at the International Energy Week here urged the state government to consider constructing cascading HEP dams that would not flood land and forest instead of the conventional HEP dams.