Stop suggesting the Baram Dam has been approved

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The feasibility study, including the EIA and Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA), for the Baram Dam have not yet been completed, note half a dozen Sarawak-based civil society groups.

MIRI, Sarawak – We would like to call on the Sarawak State Government and its agencies such as the Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB), including the Member of Parliament for Baram, Jacob Dungau Sagan, and the State Assembly member for Telang Usan, Dennis Ngau, to immediately stop suggesting that the proposed controversial Baram Dam has been approved for implementation.

The feasibility study including the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) for the project has not yet been completed.

The sudden 24 August announcement in the media of the formation of the so-called Baram HEP Community Consultative Committee, headed by the Baram MP and the Telang Usan State Assembly member, to look into the relocation of the Baram villagers who would be displaced by the dam has given the impression that the implementation of the dam has been officially approved.

What is worse is that the Sarawak state government has even issued notices of extinguishment of native customary rights (NCR) over lands affected by the so-called access road to the Baram Dam from the Rural Growth Centre in Long Lama, Baram.

Until today, the EIA and SEIA for this dam have not been completed. These are mandatory legal requirements under the Sarawak Natural Resources and Environment Order, 1994 (NREO) made under the Natural Resources and Environment Ordinance (Amended) 1993. The EIA Report for such projects must be submitted to and approved by the Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB), which is chaired by the Sarawak Chief Minister before the implementation of the project can commence. In this case, even the size and the site for this controversial dam has not been decided.

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The Sarawak state government and the SEB have recently stated that they will fully comply with international standards when implementing the 12 proposed new dam projects in Sarawak including the controversial Baram Dam.

The principles in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, which require governments to, inter alia, obtain the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous people before implementing development projects and programmes within or over their territory. We have noted that these principles have not been complied with by the Sarawak Government and the SEB in the case of the controversial Murum Dam, now under construction, and the proposed Baram Dam.

Informal briefing sessions for a few selected community leaders and individuals, carried out by the Sarawak Government and SEB in the case of the Murum Dam and recently in Miri for the Baram Dam, cannot be considered as “free, prior and informed consent” of or by the affected indigenous population in Murum and Baram. Those attending were merely individuals who were not authorised by all the residents of their respective longhouses to speak or decide for them.

There is no need to build these 12 new dams, including the hugely unpopular Baram Dam, in Sarawak. To do so would result in Sarawak registering a huge surplus of energy of more than 600 per cent.

Even the federal Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Peter Chin has recently stated that “Sarawak is going to have a surplus power for a long time once the Bakun Dam goes on line”.

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The building of these 12 new dams would also adversely affects Sarawak’s financial standing in the future. At the current rate, each of these dams costs at least RM3bn to build and the 12 would cost the state at least RM36bn, excluding the usual huge cost overruns typical of such projects.

Further, all the problems caused by the Batang Ai Dam have not yet been resolved, and the problems faced by the displaced communities in Bakum and Murum are mounting by the day. Under the circumstances, it is therefore utterly unjustifiable and totally irrational for the Sarawak state government to keep building more dams throughout the state.

For the above reasons, we wish to hereby state that we strongly oppose the construction of the highly controversial Baram Dam and all the other proposed 10 dams and we call upon the Sarawak state government to stop its plan to build the dams.

Mark Bujang
Executive Director
Borneo Resources Institute Malaysia (Brimas)

Philip Jau,
Chairman,
Jawatankuasa Perlindungan Rakyat Baram

Jok Jau Evong,
Field Director,
Sahabat Alam Malaysia, Marudi

Abun Sui Anyit,
Director,
Sarawak Indigenous Lawyers Alliance (SILA) and Lawyers For Liberty

Romuald Siew,
President,
Jaringan Tanah Hak Adat Bangsa Asal Sarawak (Tahabas)

Thomas Jalong,
President,
Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS)

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