Rundi: Ensure social sustainability in development of hydrodams

Rundi (fourth right) in a photo with distinguished guests and SEB top management staff. Also seen are Sharbini (fifth left) and Liwan (third right).

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By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Dec 11: Building in the field of sustainable development including hydropower is not just a matter of the cost or the availability of the technology, focus must also be given to fulfilling social obligations towards communities who actually contributed to make it possible.

Minister of Utilities Datuk Seri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom emphasised the importance of understanding the impacts of development on people and thus the need to ensure social sustainability to attain the best outcome possible.

“When looking into developing hydropower, it is not only in dollar and cents, not just technology, but the social part of it, the obligation to the people who actually contributed to make it possible for us to build such a huge dams.

“This is very important because as a responsible government, we must make sure that development programmes must strike a balance to support economic growth, environment, social development, bettering livelihood and so on, in a holistic approach,” he said.

He highlighted this when closing the Sustainability and Renewable Energy Forum (SAREF) 2019 at Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) here today.

With the expansive state of Sarawak currently housing four hydrodams, mostly in the rural areas, he pointed out there was a need to ensure positive transformation, including socio-economic aspects and improving standards of living of people affected by hydrodam development.

Addressing the SAREF 2019 earlier on, he noted that Sarawak could not escape the impacts of climate change on water-related sectors such as water supply, forestry and power generation mix, which will continue to be predominantly renewable hydropower.

“With the change in the magnitude and intensity of rainfall and associated increase in extreme flood and drought events, we have identified and included these considerations in our strategies and masterplans for water supply and energy development.

“SAREF is a crucial platform to drive discourse on available solutions. All stakeholders must play their parts,” he said.

Rundi also assured that Sarawak fully embraced the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calling for the cooperation of the public sector, private sector and civil society to contribute towards global sustainability agenda.

“As such, the discussions on how the energy industry, the business sector and civil society can move forward in building a sustainable energy future while helping to meet the UN SDGs has been beneficial as has been the viewpoints from experts and champions of sustainability,” he added.

Since 2010, Rundi said that Sarawak has reduced dependence on fossil fuel generation towards a low carbon economy through renewable hydropower development as a catalyst to drive Sarawak’s next wave of economic growth.

“Sarawak began the transition to renewable energy before the world woke up to the climate change crisis and will continue to harness hydropower potential to power growth, balancing this with indigenous coal and gas for security.

“Our sustainable energy blueprint balances energy security, energy reliability and energy affordability for the benefit of our children and their future generations,” he added. —DayakDaily