23 SEPTEMBER 2016
We were most disappointed to learn about the approval by the Sarawak government for the construction of the 1,285 megawatt Baleh mega dam.
On the eve of the Sarawak elections this year, the Chief Minister had said that there would be no more new mega dams in the state, as published in the Borneo Post on 2 May 2016. At the same time, he called on Sarawakians to give him another 5 years to carry out more development, especially in the rural areas.
The Chief Minister had also met with and been briefed by world experts from the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) on the benefits of harnessing renewable energy such as solar, wind, sustainable biomass and micro-hydro instead of the highly destructive mega hydro dams.
Studies have shown that the state has no need for the levels of energy projected by SEB, and that the Bakun HEP is operating at half capacity. Even if there is an increased need, it can be met without the building of mega dams, by using micro-hydro in combination with solar or bio-mass power. We call upon the Chief Minister to direct the SEB to publish the cost-benefit analysis studies conducted on the feasibility of the Baleh Dam for review by interested parties.
The SEB’s Torstein has pointed out there will be no resettlement issues because the upstream of the Baleh is not inhabited by indigenous communities. This is no justification nor mitigation for pressing on with this dam, which will cause great damage to the environment as well as to the river ecosystems and biodiversity of the area. The Bakun dam has drowned an area the size of Singapore, and its capacity has not been fully utilized. Why has the Chief Minister changed his mind about having no more mega dams? Who are the people to really benefit if the Baleh Dam is to be built? Perhaps the people behind the companies who will get lucrative contracts to supply materials and construct the dam.
James Masing and other BN politicians have said that the road development and bridge that comes with dam project is vital for the people as it will spur economic development for the people. I agree that infrastructure development is important, but the price to be paid, ie the destruction of the wider environment, ecosystem and biodiversity, is too high. The primary concern seems to be that the road infrastructure be provided – that can be done without having to accept the dam. It is possible to build roads and bridges without the dam, if there is political will.
The Chief Minister is reported to have in the same article quoted above: ‘I don’t care what but let there be light (in all the rural areas)’. His concern appears to be to provide electricity for the rural people. That too, can be done without having to build the mega dam. We urge the Chief Minister to keep to his word and call off this project so as to protect our natural environment for the people of Sarawak.
Chairman, KEADILAN Sarawak / ADUN N81 Ba’ Kelalan