Monday, June 29, 2015

Sarawak birds, mammals at risk of extinction from mega-dams, says study


BY DESMOND DAVIDSON
Published: 29 June 2015 12:48 PM
 The clearing and flooding of forest lands to prepare for Sarawak's three mega hydroelectric dams in Bakun, Murum and Baram has impacted on an estimated two-thirds of all tree and arthropod species, says an American study. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, June 29, 2015.
The clearing and flooding of forest lands to prepare for Sarawak's three mega hydroelectric dams in Bakun, Murum and Baram has impacted on an estimated two-thirds of all tree and arthropod species, says an American study. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, June 29, 2015.

  
A study by the University of California on the direct impact of three of Sarawak's mega-dams on biodiversity has found that a number of mammals and birds on the critical and endangered species list would be affected, it said in a report handed to the Sarawak government over the weekend.

The clearing and flooding of forest lands to prepare for Sarawak's three mega hydroelectric dams in Bakun, Murum and Baram has impacted on an estimated two-thirds of all tree and arthropod species.

Facing extinction are four tree and 35 arthropod species, the study, "Integrated long-term energy planning for rapidly developing economies: a case study of megaprojects in Borneo" said.

It also found “at least” 331 bird species and 164 mammal species that would be affected by the land clearing and flooding.

The affected species include a number on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of critical and endangered species, such as the Sunda pangolin, bay cat (Catopuma badia), otter civet, grey gibbon, hairy nosed otter, flatheaded cat, smokey flying squirrel, and birds like the storm’s stork and Bornean pheasant.

“This represents 57% and 69% of Bornean bird and mammal species,” the study by Prof Daniel Kammen of the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California in Berkeley and Dr Shirley Rebekah of the Energy and Resources Group of the university, stated.

Both Kammen and Rebekah are also from the university's Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) where Kammen is the director.

The 2,400-megawatt (Mw) Bakun dam on Sungai Balui in Belaga is now operational. The smaller 944Mw Murum will likely be commissioned later this year while the Baram dam is still at the planning stage.

Together these three dams hold about 4.5 gigawatts (Gw) of generation capacity and have flooded 1,355 square km of forested land.

If the Sarawak government were to complete development of the full 12 mega-dam portfolio as it has proposed, some 100,000 indigenous people could be displaced and at least 2,425 sq km of direct forest cover lost, the study said.

“Borneo’s forests are large stores of natural capital, from extractable forest products to the numerous direct and indirect ecosystem services they provide.

“These forests have undisputed global and local significance, however neither the economic value of its functional ecosystem services nor the economic value of its intrinsic worth to humans have been well documented,” the study stated.

Kammen, who met Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem over the state's plan for mega-dams on Saturday, said the state did not “need to build additional dams” to meet its projected power needs.

The study found that the first hydroelectric dam the state built in Batang Ai, the Bakun dam and recently installed combined gas and coal-fired generators were sufficient to meet demand for electricity.

It stated if the Bakun, Murum and Baram dams were all built and operational, there would a large excess of non-dispatched energy.

The study also found that the state's corridor of renewable energy (SCORE) project “has a greater total cost and levelised cost than other policy scenarios”.

“While it has a low fuel cost and low emissions cost, the high annual build cost and associated fixed costs are high since the system is overbuilt.”

Kammen said yesterday large dams, even though they appeared cheap in the beginning, would be expensive in the long run as planners were “not good at adding non-money costs, costs outside the basic economics” such as delays, problems with natural disasters, cost of methane emissions, loss of biodiversity, loss of the river systems and the cost on local people's health when they find they could no longer fish, hunt or do things they did before.

Following the researchers' meeting with Adenan, PKR Sarawak vice-chairman See Chee How said he was hopeful that Adenan would rethink plans to build a series of mega-dams, aimed at providing cheap energy for Sarawak's industrialisation plan. – June 29, 2015.

- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/sarawak-birds-mammals-at-risk-of-extinction-from-mega-dams-says-study#sthash.9JGhWnS7.dpuf

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