Bakun hydropower dam mitigates flood, produces sustainable energy

The mega Bakun Hydroelectric Plant (HEP) dam.

By Peter Sibon

KUCHING, May 14: Beside producing sustainable energy for Sarawak, the mega Bakun Hydroelectric Plant (HEP) also helped to mitigate flood downstream.

Sarawak Energy Berhad (Sarawak Energy), in a statement today, emphasised that hydropower dams such as Bakun HEP mitigates the impact of heavy rainfall within upstream catchments by storing water in the reservoir, reducing the severity of floods for areas downstream.

“Recent studies conducted by third party consultants have shown that Bakun HEP has regulated the flow rates in the downstream regions by half,” the utility company said.

The statement was issued following an allegation by a Belaga resident who claimed that Bakun HEP brought no benefit at all to the local residents living below the dam, except disaster such as flood and other related calamities.

In rebutting the allegation, Sarawak Energy reiterated that Bakun HEP, which it owned and operated, the reservoir levels were managed by releasing water at regulated volumes through the gated spillway.

“This controlled procedure is conducted on a seasonal basis after permission is secured from the Sarawak River Board (SRB) and the communities are notified at least two days ahead of the scheduled release.

“This is the standard practice for hydropower operators worldwide and has been undertaken by the operator of Bakun since it was commissioned in 2010,” it said.

Sarawak Energy asserted that the current seasonal release of water through the Bakun HEP spillway commenced on May 3, 2020 and was scheduled to last for three weeks, until water level normalised.

“Over this period, the release volume is kept as low as possible, balancing both the upstream reservoir and downstream river levels and will cease once the water level in the reservoir normalises.

“The rise in river level and intensity of flowing water will reduce as the distance increases. Areas furthest downstream of the dam will experience a generally imperceptible rise in river level.

“For instance, the released water is estimated to flow past Kapit town about one day later and Sibu town after three days,” the statement explained.

Sarawak Energy stressed that the main contributors to flood situations were natural factors such as heavy rainfall at downstream regions, high sea tides for coastal areas, and water flowing from tributaries of the Rajang River.

“Spilling by itself does not cause a flood situation, due to the managed volumes.

“On top of flood mitigation, the dam also holds back river debris within the catchment, making downstream navigation much safer,” it added.

Meanwhile, Sarawak Energy reiterated that it was both an energy development company and a vertically integrated electricity utility with a vision to achieve sustainable growth and prosperity for Sarawak by meeting the region’s need for reliable, renewable energy.

With a multidisciplinary workforce comprising about 5,000 employees, Sarawak Energy served close to 680,000 customers and a population of almost three million across the state.

Building on a strong foundation of nearly 100 years as an effective utility company, Sarawak Energy is taking bold steps to support the transformation of Sarawak in its vision to become a developed state by the year 2030.

“In line with our broader roles and responsibilities, Sarawak Energy has embarked on a massive transformation journey since 2010, to advance from a traditional utility company into a modern and agile corporation,” it said.— DayakDaily