Sarawak NGOs aim to ‘pressure’ Aussie govt

Joseph Tawie | November 20, 2012

Several Sarawak NGOs are collectively seeking to rope in their counterparts in Tasmania to help fight against the construction of more dams in Sarawak.

KUCHING: A coalition of Sarawak NGOs are extending their fight against the construction of the proposed Baram hydroelectric dam to Tasmania in Australia. Their aim is to inform Australians about Hydro Tasmania, a public company that is heavily involved in the development of mega dams in Sarawak.

According to Save Rivers network chairman Peter Kallang, the coalition will also be meeting with local campaigners in Tasmania fighting to save their forests from a Sarawak linked timber company.

“Together, we will inform the Australian people about Hydro Tasmania, a public company that is heavily involved in mega-dam development in Sarawak.

“We also plan to meet with the heads of Hydro Tasmania, and other Australian companies who are involved in Sarawak Corridor Renewal Energy (SCORE).

“We believe that Australians would not want an Australian state owned company such as Hydro Tasmania to be responsible for the destruction of livelihoods of indigenous peoples and the environment in Sarawak,” said Kallang in an email statement to FMT.

Kallang said Save Rivers wanted Hydro Tasmania to get out of Sarawak, and they would seek to ‘pressure’ the Australian government “to get them out”.

“We want the Australian public to pressure the Australian government to get them out (of Sarawak).

“The fight is not ours to fight alone, but together in solidarity with our friends in West Malaysia, Australia and the rest of the world,” he said.

Kallang said that Sarawak is embarking on a drastic social and economic change via an energy-intensive programme called the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy.

SCORE comprises at least 12 planned mega-dams which will displace tens of thousands of indigenous people.

The proposed Baram dam alone will displace 20,000 natives, and submerge more than 400 square kilometres of rainforest, he said.

Excess power

According to Kallang, currently, Sarawak has an excess of power where current peak demand in Sarawak lies at around 1,000 MW, yet Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) is planning for the installed power of up to 7,000MW by 2020.

The ultimate plan is to increase that to 28,000MW by 2030.

Kallang said that local communities displaced by current mega-dams in Sarawak still face many woes and unfulfilled promises.

“The Sarawak government has in particular acknowledged the failure of the Sungai Asap resettlement for the Bakun mega-dam, while promising that mistakes would be rectified for subsequent mega-dams.

“Unfortunately for the Penan and Kenyah communities of Murum, the same mistakes are being made,” he said, pointing out that the month-long blockades at Murum dam reflected on the failure of the Sarawak government to fully engage the local communities which were not in favour of the dams.

He also alleged that the Sarawak government had made a mockery of their claim that it had followed international standards such as the Equator Principles or the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Kallang said that Save Rivers had visited the Malaysian Parliament yesterday and called for an immediate halt to all planning works on further dams.

“SAVE Rivers is demanding for full transparency from the Sarawak government on SCORE.

“It is also calling for a state-wide dialogue on SCORE and development alternatives and is urging that the Sarawak government respect fully the rights of affected communities according to international standards, national and state laws,” Kallang added.


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