Bakun troubles still (of course)




Press statement by Dr Kua Kia Soong, Director of SUARAM, 14 October 2010

The decision by the developer and manager of the Bakun Dam project, Sarawak Hidro to start the impoundment of the Bakun Dam yesterday is the height of irresponsibility. Only the day before, the people had been told that there has to be seven continuous days of dry weather and water depth of below 60m for it to be safe to flood the dam.

There has been continuous inclement weather in the area which has caused the worst environmental disaster in Sarawak with the 250 km logjam the length of the Rajang river, resulting in damage to bridges and villages, disruption to river transport and destruction of fish.

Each day of delay was costing the developers a fortune but the health and safety of the people downstream cannot be compromised just to save costs. According to The Star:

The flooding was initiated in a somewhat sudden manner at short notice after Sarawak Hidro engineers held a late meeting on Tuesday night and decided that the weather and river conditions were safe enough…”

Sarawak Hidro had gone ahead with the impounding of the dam despite the fact that the Bakun folk had lodged a police report because the issue of compensation for the people affected had not yet been settled although they were resettled 15 years ago. Furthermore, the Emergency Rescue Plan for people living downstream has not been made public.

While the Sarawak State Government is acting irresponsiblyly, the Federal government cannot feign ignorance since Sarawak Hidro is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Ministry of Finance Incorporated.

The Bakun Dam had federal endorsement from the very beginning and Dr Mahathir must bear total responsibility for erecting this “second highest concrete rock-filled dam in the world” to show that “Malaysia Boleh”. Despite the opposition by NGO activists as well as dam experts since the 1970s, this project has carried on and with it a litany of disasters for the indigenous peoples as well as Malaysian tax payers as we had warned years ago.

The entire Bakun dam project has been littered with broken promises, environmental assessment reports and experts’ opinions ignored and other compromises. We have already witnessed the environmental disaster in recent years but the 250km logjam and dead fish along the Rajang during the last week has been the worst so far.

With this brazen disregard for safety standards by impounding the dam, the Sarawak State Government and the Federal Government must bear full responsibility for any future disasters that may happen at this accursed Bakun dam. When it happens, they should not feign ignorance, shed crocodile tears or try and blame God again!


past atrocities:

also see an old piece of mine on the Bakun scheme from Left Curve #23 1999 ‘Resettling Bakun: Consultancy, Anthropologists and Development’.

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