Conference participants reject Sarawak mega dams

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Participants at a recent SAVE Rivers conference in Miri have strongly condemned the Sarawak government’s plan to build 12 more dams in the state.

About 150 indigenous representatives affected by the current and planned mega hydro dam projects in Sarawak, together with local civil society organisations and indigenous peoples organisations and concerned individuals, gathered for a conference in Miri, Sarawak on 16-18 February, organised by the newly formed Save Rivers Network (SAVE Rivers).

The discussion in the conference centred on issues regarding the impact of building mega-dams on the livelihoods of the affected communities as well as the adverse impact on the environment.

At the end of the conference, the participants issued a statement demanding that the government take the necessary steps to address the issues of concern.

According to Peter Kallang, the chairman of SAVE Rivers, “In the workshop discussions the participants unanimously expressed their clear intent to resolve these issues and continue the campaign until the demands are met.”

The participants of the conference strongly condemn the Sarawak State Government’s development plans to build an additional 12 dams after Batang Ai, Bakun and Bengoh dams. They strongly demand the state government to scrap these plans as well as the plans to bring in dirty industries to the state under the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (Score).

They are also demanding that all outstanding issues regarding the people affected by the dams that have already been constructed or currently under construction should be resolved immediately.

The participants agreed in the conference that the government must respect the decision and the right of the people to disagree with the proposed dam projects as they are the ones directly affected. 

There was a strong call to the government to promote viable energy generation alternatives which are people and environmental friendly such as micro-hydro, solar, wind and biomass.

The participants demanded that destructive activities caused by logging, plantation and infrastructure activities within the water catchment areas of all the river systems in Sarawak should cease.

All the participants also agreed that the government should at the very least conduct a referendum after a full and free consultation among the peoples affected by the proposed dams.

Eight speakers gave presentations during the conference. They are Detta Samen, one of the Commissioners in the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam); Gurmit Singh from the Centre for Environment, Technology and Development, Malaysia (Cetdem), Edmund Bon, a lawyer from the Bar Council’s Human Rights Committee; Dr Andrew Aeria from the Faculty of Social Science at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas); Adrian Lasimbang from the Indigenous Peoples’ Network of Malaysia (JOAS); Dr Ting Chek Ming, a senior lecturer from Universiti Selangor (Unisel); Kirk Herbertson from International Rivers; and Cynthia Ong from Green Surf.

The indigenous communities include the Kayans, Kenyahs, Kajangs, Kelabits, Lun Bawangs, Ibans, Penans, Bidayuhs, Kedayans, Trings and Ukits.

SAVE Rivers is a network of civil society organisations, community based organisations and associations and individuals who are concerned about the construction of mega dams in the state which will affect a large group of indigenous peoples and the environment.

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