State government urged to cancel Baleh dam project

KUCHING: The state government has been urged to call off the Baleh dam project in order to protect the natural environment of the area.

Sarawak PKR chairman Baru Bian said he was “most disappointed” to learn about the state government’s approval for the 1,285MW dam to go ahead.

“On the eve of the Sarawak election this year, the Chief Minister had said that there would be no more new mega dams in the state.

“The Chief Minister had also met with and been briefed by world experts from the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory on the benefits of harnessing renewable energy such as solar, wind, sustainable biomass and micro-hydro instead of the highly destructive mega-hydro dams,” he said in a statement.

“Why has the Chief Minister changed his mind about having no more mega dams? Who are the people to really benefit if the Baleh dam is to be built?”

Baru said studies showed that the state did not need the levels of energy projected by Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB) and that the Bakun hydroelectric plant was operating at half capacity.

“Even if there is an increased need, it can be met without the building of mega dams by using instead micro-hydro in combination with solar or bio-mass power,” he said.

He called on the Chief Minister to direct SEB to publish the cost-benefit analysis studies conducted on the feasibility of the Baleh dam for review by interested parties.

He also said although the Baleh dam would not involve resettlement issues, this was not a justification for pressing on with the project, which would cause “great damage” to the environment, river ecosystems and biodiversity in the area.

The environmental destruction would be too high a price to pay for any road and bridge development that would accompany the dam project, he added.

“It is possible to build roads and bridges without the dam, if there is political will. The provision of electricity, too, can be done without having to build the mega dam,” Baru said.

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