Thursday, February 16, 2012

International NGO coalition condemns Malaysian dam plans

International NGO coalition condemns Malaysian dam plans

(MIRI, SARAWAK/MALAYSIA) An international NGO coalition that includes
organizations from the US, Norway and Switzerland is showing its
solidarity with Malaysian groups who are protesting against the
construction of twelve hydroelectric dams in the Malaysian state of
Sarawak on Borneo. The NGO coalition supports the Malaysian groups'
demand for an immediate halt to the realization of these dams, which
threaten to displace tens of thousands of Sarawak natives and flood
hundreds of square miles of Sarawak's precious tropical rainforests.

The Bruno Manser Fund, International Rivers (US), Borneo Project (US),
Rainforest Action Network (US) and the Rainforest Foundation Norway are
emphasizing the adverse social and ecological consequences of the
planned dams and question their economic viability. Just a handful of
companies connected to Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud and his
family are likely to benefit from these projects, due to their
involvement in the construction business, while the Sarawak public would
have to cover the costs in form of long-term state debts.

At a press conference in Miri yesterday, the recently founded 'Save
Sarawak's Rivers' network, under the lead of its chairperson Peter
Kallang, announced the start of the local protests against the planned
twelve dams in the Sarawak rainforest: 'The construction of the dams
will not bring development to the people directly affected but it does
bring severe and permanent damages to the whole environment and to the
community at large. Development for the people must be for the immediate
and above all, long term good of all the people and not just a few, who
own shares in power generation and big corporations.'

The Save Sarawak Rivers Network was formed in October 2011 by people
affected by the planned or already realized dams together with concerned
individuals and local NGOS in order to fight the construction of
mega-dams and protect the rivers of Sarawak – the lifeline of its
peoples. A first conference will be held in Miri, Sarawak, from 16 to 18
February 2012. Native communities affected by the dam projects will
gather to share information, raise awareness and coordinate their
state-wide struggle against the twelve planned dams. The conference will
voice the disagreement of the Sarawakians, and especially that of the
affected communities, with their government's policy of building the
proposed dams without giving them a chance to express their opinion on
these projects.

With the completion of the largest dam in Asia outside of China, the
Bakun dam, with its capacity of 2,400 Megawatts and the additional
900-Megawatt Murum dam, which is currently under construction, Sarawak
will be producing massive amounts of surplus power. The state's current
electricity consumption only rises to 972 Megawatts during periods of
peak demand.

Experience with the recently-completed Bakun dam has shown the
unwillingness of the Sarawak state government to comply with
international human rights and environmental standards such as the
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Close to
ten thousand natives of the Bakun river system were displaced without
having been properly consulted and compensated. Transparency
International even labeled the highly controversial Bakun dam a
"Monument of Corruption".

(15th February 2012)

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