Group to raise mega-dams issues at sustainability forum in Kuching

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Delegates from Baram and Sungai Asap led by Save Rivers at the forum - From left: James Nyurang from Tanjung Tepalit Baram, Ungan Lisut from Sungi Asap and Edward Ugah from Sungai Asap

Save Rivers is participating in Sarawak Energy’s Sustainability & Renewable Energy Forum starting today in Kuching. With its attendance, Save Rivers is making sure that the negative impacts of dams on Sarawak’s community and environment are not sidelined in this international event. 

Save Rivers is accompanying community representatives from Baram and Bakun to raise their voice about their experiences with dam implementation and planning in their areas.

At the forum, Sarawak Energy and the Ministry of Utilities are calling stakeholders to discuss “the role of renewable energy in delivering the United Nations Sustainable Development goals by 2030”.

The programme, however, has a strong bias towards large hydropower. Save Rivers wants to remind the organisers and the participants to remember that the people profiting from large hydropower are hardly the rural communities in need of electricity. On the contrary, they are the ones losing out. As poor communities are the target of the sustainable development goals, South East Asian governments must focus their efforts on rural electrification with people-centred technologies such as solar and micro-hydros instead of mega-dams.

Edward Ugah from the Sungai Asap Bakun resettlement area said, “Building more Dam means more Dayak’s customary rights land will be inundated and therefore having a great impact on their livelihood and heritage. Dam does not necessarily bring economic or social benefit to those who sacrifice so much by being displaced by it.”

Ungan Lisut, another villager from the Bakun resettlement area, said, “We have so many problems experienced by those who were resettled in making way for the Bakun Dam. Some of these villagers have died without receiving compensation for their inundated farms and lands.”

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James Nyurang, a village headman from Baram, said, “We don’t want mega-dams in Baram. But we support power generation like micro-hydro and solar power. We love our land, forest and rivers which are our heritage. I am a retired civil servant, but I have chosen to live in my ancestral village instead of living in the towns. Like me, there is an increasing number of people who are also moving back to their villages because we love this, our inheritance.

Save Rivers requests the Sarawak government and Sarawak Energy to follow the late Chief Minister Adenan Satem’s decision to cancel the Baram Dam. 

As Peter Kallang, chairman of Save Rivers, stressed: “The current government must respect the legacy of our late Adenan Satem and stick to his shift in policy away from harmful mega-dams to real sustainable energy solutions such as solar and micro-hydro .”

Save Rivers is a civil society organisation which advocates for and empowers rural communities to protect and restore lands, rivers and watersheds through research, training and capacity building.

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