The International Hydropower Association (IHA) should not support Sarawak’s plans to build more mega-dams in Sarawak, says SAVE Rivers.
MIRI: Save Sarawak Rivers Network (SAVE Rivers) is demanding that the International Hydropower Association (IHA) stop supporting the Sarawak state government and the state-owned energy utility Sarawak Energy Berhad(SEB)’s plans to build at least 12 additional mega-dams in Sarawak.
On 21-24 May 2013, the Sarawak state government together with SEB will host the IHA’s biennial congress in Kuching. During this time, the most powerful decision makers in the dam industry will be meeting. The congress will be held at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK).
The IHA is a lobby group consisting of investors, builders and financiers with a vested interest in building mega-dams.
SAVE Rivers is in view that the state government and SEB are using this congress as a forum to legitimise and promote dam building in Sarawak.
One example is the Baram hydroelectric power (HEP) dam project. The state government has refused to accept the fact that the majority of the indigenous communities, mainly from the Kayan, Kenyah and Penan communities, that are going to be affected by the proposed dam are opposed to the project. Even though no official approval has been given to the Baram HEP dam project, the construction of the access road to the proposed dam site has begun in earnest.
SAVE Rivers is very concerned that the state government and SEB have not complied with the acceptable international standards on dam development especially with regards to human rights and the environment. The state government has not been very transparent in releasing to the public the Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA), as in the case of the Murum HEP, especially to the affected indigenous communities.
The state government and the SEB continue to ignore the rights of the affected indigenous communities and this can be seen in the examples of the Bakun and the Murum HEP dams. The principle of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) as enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which the Malaysian government has agreed to adopt, is disregarded by the state government.
SAVE Rivers strongly demands that the Sarawak state government scrap its plans to build more mega-dams in Sarawak and that the rights of the affected communities be given full recognition.
SAVE Rivers is also demanding that the IHA cancel SEB’s membership in the association as they have yet to address the outstanding issues affecting the indigenous communities in Batang Ai, Bakun and Murum HEP Dams.
SAVE Rivers is also in view that it is not appropriate for Torstein Dale Sjotveit, the CEO of SEB, to be on the board of IHA for the reasons mentioned above.
Mark Bujang is Secretary of SAVE Rivers Network, a group of concerned citizens building broad-based support against the Sarawak state government’s plans to build more new dams that are destructive to the people and ecosystems.