By Peter Sibon
KUCHING, March 20: Community leaders representing some 10,000 people living below the Bakun hydroelectric power (HEP) dam are demanding that Sarawak Energy Berhad and the state government scrap their plan to make another tunnel to install additional turbines to increase its power capacity.
According to a Belaga Action Committee spokesman, a protest letter on this matter had been sent to the state government.
“They already have eight turbines (in Bakun HEP Dam). That is enough. We, the community living below Bakun HEP Dam, should not be made the sacrificial lambs of development,” the spokesman told DayakDaily today.
He reckoned that if the plan proceeded, it would affect their livelihood as the current jetties located downriver, especially the major one in Belaga Town, would no longer be functional as the water from upriver would be regulated by the project.
“We have enough hardship already in the past when our river was affected. Furthermore, we do not benefit from this mega-dam project in any way. Even Sarawak Energy’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) does not reach us at all,” claimed the spokesman.
He revealed that there were some 20 villages located below the dam, and the residents still depend on river transport.
“If we have a good road network, it’s okay, we don’t mind. But until now, the road that was promised to be upgraded has not been done yet,” he said, referring to the RM80 million 34km-Menjawah-Belaga Road.
He added that besides the lack of good road connectivity, the 10,000 residents living in the 20 villages did not have access to 24-hour electricity and still depend on gravity feed for their water needs.
“On top of that, we have never been consulted by Sarawak Energy on their proposal to do the tunnel. So, how can we agree with such a plan?” he asked.
Currently, the dam has eight turbines with an installed capacity of 2,400MW. It was fully commissioned in July 2014.
The Bakun HEP Dam was acquired by the state government from Putrajaya on August 16, 2017, where Sarawak paid RM2.5 billion to the federal government and took over the remaining RM6 billion debts.
When asked to comment on the issue, Belaga assemblyman Datuk Liwan Lagang said he had no knowledge of the planned project but insisted that should there be such a plan, then the people and he, as their elected representative, should be consulted.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m not aware of it. But we have heard from community leaders from Belaga that they had dialogues with the local community beyond our knowledge,” said Liwan. — DayakDaily