Find alternatives to large hydropower — SAVE Rivers

Peter Kallang -

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By Peter Sibon

KUCHING, July 2: It is high time for Sarawak and other states to look for other sources of energy besides hydroelectric power (HEP), opined Sarawak SAVE Rivers chairman Peter Kallang.

He said the implementation of HEP dams on grand scales, such as the ones in Batang Ai, Bakun and Murum, is killing the ecosystem of the affected rivers and livelihood of the local people who depended on them.

“SAVE Rivers believes that Sarawak, as well as Sabah, is now capable of using alternative sources of power supplies as we have plenty of resources, such as wind and solar that can be tapped,” Kallang said in a statement today.

He was commenting on Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal’s recent statement that “Sarawak is reaping the benefit” from the Bakun HEP dam.

“This remark was based on the Sarawak state government and Sarawak Energy Bhd without taking into account the long-standing problems and complaints of the indigenous peoples affected by these mega projects.

“The Bakun HEP dam submerged an area of 700 sq km of forest, farmland and villages. Some 10,000 indigenous community members from 15 villages were displaced and resettled in Sungai Asap.

“But until today, most of the people in the resettlement are still struggling to eke out a living, while in their original villages, they had vast land for farming, hunting and foraging. But in Sungai Asap, each family was only given three acres of farmland. This is not enough to sustain a living, especially since much of the land is rocky, sloped and sandy. On top of that, many plots of the land are inaccessible since there are no roads and having very difficult terrain,” he lamented.

He added that the government had promised that the Bakun dam would bring job opportunities, improved standard of living and development. However, they remained as empty promises, despite the many formal complaints and grumbling from the people, which seemed to go unnoticed and unheard.

In a recent press conference by Belaga assemblyman Datuk Liwan Lagang and Murum assemblyman Kennedy Chukpai Ugon, Liwan lamented about the slow pace of development in Belaga district even after more than 20 years since the construction of the Bakun dam, followed by the Murum dam in 2014.

“And as reported by DayakDaily on May 20, 2019, Datuk Liwan Lagang was quoted to have said, ‘We are lighting up Sarawak and yet we (those living below Bakun dam) don’t have electricity. What we want is 101 per cent (coverage). Other places, like Bau, already has 97 per cent coverage of 24-hour electricity supply from the grid, while Belaga town is the only town in Sarawak not connected to the grid’,” said Kallang.

Commenting on the proposed Kaiduan/Papar dam, Kallang said, “In any mega project that is affecting the environment, properties and people, the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as stated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) must be seriously observed. Any social and environmental well-being must never be compromised by economic objectives.

“Why should they build a mega dam when Sabah recorded a high amount of rainfall, (and has) Mount Emas and the Crocker Range as a natural reservoir, supplying water to the Paper river that never runs dry? It does not make sense unless the government is trying to harvest the timber on the hills at the proposed site,” he said, echoing Jackly Likinsim, a Sabahan, who hails from Kampung Biusang, Papar. — DayakDaily