Sarawak Chief Minister receives dam critics over new scientific findings

Sarawak Chief Minister receives dam critics over new scientific findings

Civil society representatives brief the media on the meeting with CM Adenan Satem in Kuching on 28 June 2015

KUCHING / SARAWAK / MALAYSIA) A major recent development in the Malaysian state of Sarawak may become the turning point in a long conflict over the state government's plans to build 12 new hydropower dams.

Last Saturday, Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem received a civil society delegation who presented the results of a two-year study on Sarawak's energy development plans by the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Daniel Kammen (Berkeley) was accompanied by Peter Kallang, Chairman of the Save Sarawak Rivers Network, State Assemblyman See Chee How and Gabriel Wynn of Green Empowerment.

The study entitled "Energy Planning and Development in Malaysian Borneo: Assessing the Benefits of Distributed versus Large Scale Energy Projects", authored by the University of California's Rebekah Shirley and Daniel Kammen, found that Sarawak Energy's SCORE scenario "has a greater total cost and levelized cost than other policy scenarios" and that SCORE's mega-dam plans had "high annual build cost and associated fix costs (...) since the system is overbuilt."

The study found that there are a number of alternatives to mega-dams to meet even an "extremely agressive 10% growth" of energy demand. Alternative energy sources analized by the authors include solar power as well as palm oil biomass gasification and methane capture. The scientists also analized the effect of mega-dams on biodiversity and examined strategies for improving rural energy access. The research, which was funded by the Bruno Manser Fund and Rainforest Foundation Norway, will be published over the next few months in renowned academic journals.

According to the participants, Chief Minister Adenan Satem reacted positively to the presentation and asked the University of California to submit alternative proposals and options of renewable energy sources that are practical for Sarawak. During the meeting, 8000 signatures of indigenous people opposed to the Baram dam construction were handed over to the Chief Minister. For close to two years, the local communities have stopped the dam construction works with road blocks.

The Bruno Manser Fund welcomes the public debate on Sarawak's energy scenarios and the spirit of openness displayed by Chief Minister Adenan Satem when receiving the civil society delegation. The Bruno Manser Fund calls on Sarawak Energy to take heed of the University of California's findings and to stop presenting mega-dams as the only energy option for the state.

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Large dams can only serve as last resort, acknowledged the Malaysian Ministry of the Environment.




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