Saturday, May 23, 2015

‘Publicise SEIA studies on dams’

by Jonathan Chia, Posted on May 22, 2015, Friday

See Chee How
KUCHING: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem must immediately instruct Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB) and Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) to publicise the Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) studies conducted on the Baleh Dam and the Baleh hydro electric power (HEP) project, as well as undertake public consultation process before allowing works to commence on the dam project.

Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How, who made the call, said owing to the close proximity of Bakun and Murum dams to the proposed Baleh dam, the chief minister should also direct that seismological studies be carried out to assess the impact of the dam and the safety and security of the huge population living below the dams, from Belaga and Kapit down to the mouth of Batang Rajang.

“While the state may be encouraged by the economic benefits that we can derive from the hydro electric power projects, we should also be minded by the huge risk of devastating damages and losses of lives and properties experienced in other countries, caused by the failure of huge dams,” See, who is state PKR vice chairman, said in a press statement yesterday.

He was responding to The Borneo Post news report yesterday quoting SEB chief executive officer Datuk Torstein Dale Sjotveit as saying that the SEIA reports for both Baleh and Baram HEP dams had been delivered but only Baleh had been approved by the NREB.

As to the seismological studies, Torstein confirmed no such studies had been done on both dams and ruled out the necessity to do the studies.

“This is basically not relevant issues. Seismic is not for this. And it is also not relevant. To be clear, whether it is one dam or more it cannot create any earthquake,” he was quoted as saying.

See said as at present, the state’s policies and legal provisions on the requirements of SEIA studies were outdated and insufficient to meet the necessary international standards.

“The state continues and is still leaving it to the project proponent to engage its own consultants to carry out the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs), cost-benefits analysis and social impact studies which clearly has tainted the objectivity and impartiality of the reports and studies.

“Further, the consultation with stakeholders and EIA approval are still not made pre-conditions for the implementation of such projects. They are unable to protect interests of people who are affected by the projects, neither can it address the devastation and annihilation of our unique biodiversity in Sarawak.”

See said the fact that the SEIA studies were shrouded in secrecy and were not open to public scrutiny, SEB and NREB had conducted themselves in contravention of the pleas of the chief minister for integrity, transparency and good governance under his state administration.

“In order to propel the state forward to attract foreign investments, it is imperative for us to prove our credentials to be able to raise and meet the necessary standards of compliance in our administration and governance.

“On the contrary, the international community will not have the confidence to take us seriously. The state’s efforts will be futile and the desired results and achievements will not be met.”

He therefore called on the chief minister to intervene, to release the SEIA for public scrutiny and to initiate open and extensive consultation with all the stakeholders and interested persons before the final approval is to be granted for the implementation of the Baleh and Baram dam projects.

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