Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Activists want cancellation of Baram dam project in black and white

Anti-Baram hydroelectric dam activists are urging Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem to end the uncertainty surrounding the status of the proposed mega dam project by announcing that it will never be built. "The fact is that the chief minister has never made an official announcement that the Baram dam is being cancelled. "There is no assurance from the state government that it is cancelled," Peter Kallang, chairman of the environmental group spearheading the campaign to stop the construction of the dam, Save Rivers, said today. "A moratorium on the dam is not a complete cancellation of the project," he said. On July 30 last year, Adenan, at the small Baran riverine town of Long Lama, about 100km from Miri, announced the moratorium when addressing protesters at a ceremony to drive the first pile of the bridge that would cross the Baram River. "What actually happened is that in Long Lama, the chief minister announced that he was willing to listen to those who opposed the dam (just) as he is willing to listen to those who are supporting it," Kallang said. He said it was important to note that the chief minister had also added that he "had not made his decision on the construction of the Baram dam yet". He said despite the moratorium, some dam-related activities such as salvage logging, were still ongoing. "It's going on as if in anticipation of the dam's construction," the electrical-engineer-turned-activist said. Kallang said recent statements made by the Barisan Nasional assemblyman for Telang Usan, Dennis Ngau, on the dam had also added to the confusion. He advised "politicians who are fighting for their political survival" not to confuse the people by calling the moratorium on the Baram dam a complete cancellation of the project. "The cancellation is only real when it is in black and white and the gazette for the dam site and the reservoir is revoked." The dam, if built, could submerge an area of around 400 sq km and displace about 20,000 ethnic tribes people, resulting in the extinction of tree and arthropod species. A study by the University of California on the direct impact on biodiversity from the clearing and flooding of forest lands, to prepare the state's three mega hydroelectric dams in Bakun, Murum and Baram, said it could leave four tree and 35 arthropod species extinct. The study entitled "Integrated Long-term Energy Planning for Rapidly Developing Economies: A Case Study of Megaprojects in Borneo" also said "at least" 331 bird species and 164 mammal species would be affected by the land clearing and flooding. Sarawak plans to build up to 12 dams to generate the electricity needed by industries in its Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) industrial belt which stretches from Mukah in central Sarawak to Binutulu in the northern part of the state. – February 16, 2016.]]>

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