Indigenous Peoples Protest Destructive Dams at Industry Conference in Malaysia

Indigenous Peoples Protest Destructive Dams at Industry Conference in Malaysia

Kuching, Sarawak. More than three hundred indigenous people of the Penan, the Kenyah, the Kayan, and Iban ethnic groups protested against a series of controversial dams on the island of Borneo this morning at the opening of the International Hydropower Association's (IHA) biannual conference.

These dams would affect tens of thousands of indigenous people and flood over 2000 square kilometers of rainforest. Dam builder Sarawak Energy has not made the environmental impact assessments public for any of the dams, despite persistent calls to do so from affected communities. China Three Gorges Corporation began construction on the 944 MW Murum Dam in 2012 before its environmental impact assessment had even commenced, leaving affected communities with no option to negotiate resettlement outcomes.

“We call on the Sarawak government to stop building these dams as long as it continues to disrespect our rights,” said Peter Kallang, chairman of SAVE-Rivers, a network representing affected indigenous peoples.

SAVE Rivers stated that it also demanded that Sarawak Energy & the Sarawak Government stop all
work on mega dams in Sarawak; that all native, customary rights be respected in observance of the
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP); that the government
resolve all outstanding problems from Batang Ai, Bakun and Murum dams immediately, that the
International Hydropower Association suspend Sarawak Energy’s membership in IHA; and that Mr.
Torstein Dale Sjotveit be removed from the board of IHA until Sarawak state government and SEB
clean up the mistakes it made in the past.

In a show of distrust and poor relations with affected communities earlier this week, Sarawak Energy
barred Mr. Kallang from participating in a workshop organized by the IHA and the International
Finance Corporation to discuss regional cooperation among stakeholders, despite Mr. Kallang having
paid to do so. In a statement, SAVE Rivers decried the tactics as an example of civil society repression
that some say characterizes this fledging democracy.

The Sarawak state government has been marred by allegations of corruption, as a recent undercover
video filmed by Global Witness illustrated: Chief Minister of Sarawak Abdul Taib Mahmud, who was
returned to power in a tense election in early May, has handed out large contracts to his family network.
Transparency International dubbed the recently completed Bakun Dam a “monument of corruption,”
and has criticized the IHA's choice to engage with Sarawak Energy.

The congress is the world's largest gathering of dam builders and financiers, who convene every two
years to discuss industry topics. In 2011, the IHA launched a voluntary auditing tool for dam builders to
assess their social and environmental performance, called the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment
Protocol, or HSAP.

“While the HSAP may be useful to guide dam builders and governments on sustainability, there is a
risk that dam builders could use it to greenwash the worst dams, especially given such a context of
heavy-handed repression and corruption,” said Zachary Hurwitz, Policy Program Coordinator at
International Rivers.

The controversial dams would form the energy backbone of the Sarawak government's SCORE
Initiative, a plan to rapidly industrialize the state primarily through the expansion of aluminum
smelting facilities, palm oil plantations, and other commodity sectors.

Please sign the petition against the construction of a series of dams in Sarawak, Malaysia!


More information:
SAVE Rivers
International Rivers
The Borneo Project
Bruno Manser Fonds

Media Contacts:
Brihannala Morgan, brihannala@borneoproject.org, Skype: brihannala, Ph:+ 60 13 570 49 83
Liza Bong, lizabong@gmail.com,
Ph. +60 128860067


The communities displaced by the Murum Dam are still waiting to receive farmland – NGOs are now asking Britain’s Princess Anne for help as she visited dam builder Sarawak Energy in late 2016




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