Sarawak should reconsider energy plans after Baram dam moratorium
Saved for future generations - Sarawak's Baram river at the site of the shelved dam construction
(KUCHING / SARAWAK / MALAYSIA) Last week, Adenan Satem, Chief Minister of Sarawak, announced that the controversial 1200 MW Baram Dam project in Malaysian Borneo had been shelved due to massive protests by indigenous communities who feared to lose their lands and livelihoods.
The Bruno Manser Fund welcomes this courageous and clear-sighted decision by the Chief Minister and calls on the Sarawak state government to pursue the reformulation of its energy policies based on the development needs of the rural communities and 21st century sustainability criteria.
The Baram dam moratorium opens a unique chance for the state to reconsider its energy future, said the Swiss NGO in a statement on Tuesday. It would be a huge mistake to replace the shelved Baram project with just another mega dam project such as the proposed 1300 MW Baleh dam. While Baleh would be built in a sparsely populated area, it would flood an even bigger area of tropical rainforest (527km2) than the shelved Baram project (412km2).
Recent studies by the University of California-Berkeley have shown that there are more cost-effective and less risky energy solutions for Sarawak than the building of new mega dams. These scientific findings should now be used to design a new energy policy for Sarawak that enjoys the support of the whole population.
A research team around Berkeley Professor Dan Kammen had found that a community-oriented energy strategy based around mini-grids with micro-hydro at the core, augmented with solar or biomass, could meet the stateâs energy needs even for aggressive growth scenarios. Adverse biodiversity impacts of micro-hydros are much smaller than with mega dams.
The Bruno Manser Fund calls for the Sarawak state government to appoint an independent expert group to study different energy scenarios and give guidance to the state-owned energy supplier, Sarawak Energy, whose one-sided focus on corruption-prone mega dams has been discredited.
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