Thursday, March 10, 2016

Sarawak anti-dam group wins South Korean rights award

Save Rivers, the Sarawak conservation group leading the opposition to the Baram hydroelectric dam project, has won a South Korean human rights award. The Tji Haksoon Justice and Peace Award, named after South Korean Catholic bishop and rights activist Tji Hak Soon, is given out annually to individuals or organisations who work "at great personal risk, stand up to opposition, in pursuit of justice, peace and respect for human rights". Save Rivers, which had managed to get the Sarawak government to call for a moratorium on the construction of the RM4 billion dam that could generate 1,000Mw of electricity, was among 11 civil society organisations from eight Asian countries proposed for the 19th award. The group is the first non-governmental organisation from Malaysia to receive the award. Save Rivers chairman Peter Kallang, who received the award in Seoul yesterday, said in his acceptance speech that mega dams were the causes for "ecocide and ethnocide which is often ironically being built or endorsed by the very governments or institutions which should champion the cause of the environment and their citizens". When completed, the Baram dam could submerge 400 sq km of pristine rainforest and displace 20,000 ethnic tribes people. It is one of 12 mega dams the state had planned to build to generate power for industries in Sarawak's industrial belt called Sarawak Corridor for Renewable Energy (Score). Kallang said the dam, in the interior of northern Sarawak, could be a major cause of "environmental disaster which destroys flora and fauna and one which would result in the forced displacement of thousands of indigenous peoples". "The brunt of the exploit is on the environment and the populace, especially the indigenous peoples whose cultural heritage are often destroyed and their livelihood is lost. "Thousands and thousands of hectares of land with forest which are habitat for millions of species are destroyed by these humongous dams. "When inundated, these species are often permanently and totally lost to the world. "This award is a gesture of support and approval and we are really grateful for it. We therefore urge Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem and the Sarawak government to stop all mega dams and consider alternative energy sources like solar power, biomass and micro hydro. "These alternatives would be more people-centred and environmentally friendly." – March 11, 2016.]]>

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