SAVE Rivers calls for people-centric power solutions at SAREF

Delegates from Baram and Sungai Asap led by SAVE Rivers chairman Peter (second right) at the SAREF. With him (from left) are James, Ungan and Edward.

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KUCHING, Dec 10: SAVE Rivers wants to ensure that the negative impacts of dams on Sarawak’s community and environment are not sidelined at Sarawak Energy’s Sustainability & Renewable Energy Forum (SAREF) held at Borneo Convention Center Kuching from today until December 11.

SAVE Rivers chairman Peter Kallang said that they were bringing community representatives from Baram and Bakun to voice out their experiences with dam implementations and planning in their areas.

Peter believed that the programme had a strong bias towards large hydropower projects and he wanted to remind the organisers and the participants to remember that the people profiting from large hydropower production were not the rural communities in need of electricity, but were in fact, the ones losing out.

“Southeast Asia governments must focus their efforts on rural electrification with people-centred technologies such as solar and micro-hydros instead of mega-dams,” he said in a statement.

“SAVE Rivers requests the Sarawak government and Sarawak Energy to follow the late Chief Minister Pehin Sri Adenan Satem’s decision to cancel the Baram Dam.”

He stressed that the current government should respect the legacy of the late chief minister and stick to his shift in policy away from harmful mega-dams to real sustainable energy solutions such as solar and micro-hydro.

Edward Ugah, a community representative from Sungai Asap at Bakun resettlement area, said that building more dams meant more native customary rights lands will be inundated, thus impacting their livelihood and heritage.

He said that the dam did not bring economic or social benefit to those who sacrificed so much by being displaced by it.

Ungan Lisut, another villager from the resettlement area said that so many problems had been experienced by those who were resettled to make way for the Bakun dam.

“Some of these villagers have died without receiving compensation for their inundated farms and lands,” she lamented.

James Nyurang, a village headman from Baram said that while they did not want mega-dams in Baram, they supported sustainable forms of power generation like micro-hydros and solar power.

“We love our land, forest and rivers which are our heritage. I am a retired civil servant, but I have chosen to live in my ancestral village instead of living in the towns. Like me, there is an increasing number of people who are also moving back to their villages because we love our inheritance,” he said.

At SAREF, Sarawak Energy and the Ministry of Utilities are calling stakeholders to discuss “the role of renewable energy in delivering the United Nations Sustainable Development goals by 2030”.—DayakDaily