KUCHING, June 28 — Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem has put on hold plans to build a 1,000 megawatt (MW) dams in Baram to give himself time to go through studies by international dam and environmental experts, a local NGO leader said today.
Sarawak SAVE Rivers Network Chairman Peter Kallang said Adenan had personally requested for more expert studies on dams before deciding on whether construction of the Baram dam will proceed.
“We feel that the current dams are sufficient to meet the demands. We have told him that mega dams do not benefit the rural communities,” he said.
The Baram dam — which is part of the state government’s ambitious plan to build 12 dams under its Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) — has evoked strong opposition from local communities, who at one point erected barricades to stop surveyors and road builders accessing the site.
The aim of the dam network is to produce up to 30,000MW of electricity to meet the demand of power-hunger heavy industries like aluminium smelters that will be set up within the SCORE area.
Kallang, who with Batu Lintang state assemblyman See Chee How, Professor Dr Daniel Kammen of University of California and Gabriel Wyn of Green Empowerment Organisation, said they spent an hour briefing Adenan yesterday on cheaper and sustainable energy alternatives as opposed to building mega dams.
Kammen co-wrote a research paper on the subject matter, titled ‘Integrated Long-term Energy Planning for Rapidly Developing Economies: A case Study of Megaprojects in Borneo’ with his colleague from the University of California’s energy and resources group, Dr Rebekah Shirley.
Kallang said they have suggested to Adenan to build small-scale dams which could generate electricity of between 1.5MW and 50MW for the rural community.
He said the chief minister was “very receptive and responsive to our idea” and that he sympathises with the rural people.
“He said he wanted the rural people to have access (to) electricity… that is his priority,” Kallang said, adding that he presented Adenan with a petition bearing over 8,000 signatures of people against the Baram dam project.
Adenan had initially approved last month plans by Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) to proceed with the construction of the Baram and 1,200MW Baleh dams, starting as soon as the end of this year, claiming that the majority of Baram’s residents were for the Baram dam.
It is understood that there has not been any objection to the Baleh dam project as it is expected to affect only a few hundred residents.
SEB has so far completed construction of the 944MW Murum dam last year while the 2,400MW Bakun dam, owned by the federal government, was completed in 2010.
The 100MW Batang Ai dam, owned by SEB, was completed about 30 years ago.