By Puvaneswary Devindran Sat, July 26th, 2008
Taib slams activist; says he should make careful study before opening his mouth
KUCHING: Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud yesterday said the criticism directed at Sarawak’s 12 proposed hydroelectric dams was an ‘old tune’ played by someone ignorant of the state’s condition and its future direction.
He said the world was facing depleting energy resources, particularly fossil fuel, where for every four barrels of oil used, only one new barrel was found.
“The world has been trying to overcome this, and then someone in Penang comes up to sing the same old tune and criticise Sarawak without knowing what the condition here is like.
“He (critic) should make a careful study before opening his mouth,” the Chief Minister told reporters after opening the Sixth Wacana Pendidikan Islam at a hotel here yesterday.
Taib did not say who that ‘someone’ was but he nevertheless slammed the person and others for making an issue out of the whole thing when it was a non-issue in the first place.
He said that Mulu National Park would not be submerged with the building of a proposed dam in Tutoh as the park was located further away.
Environmental activists had claimed that the park, known as the ‘Jewel of Sarawak’ would be submerged if the dam were to be built, and in the process, it would lose its status as a World Heritage Site.
Besides Tutoh, the other 11 proposed dams are located at Ulu Air, Metjawah, Belaga, Baleh, Belepeh, Lawas, Limbang, Baram, Murum and Linau rivers.
The plan that seeks to meet future industrialisation needs would also include an extension to the Batang Ai dam.
As soon as the news broke out, environmentalists and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) began attacking the plan with questions about the need for that many dams.
They worry that the dams would lead to the destruction of Borneo’s natural environment and wildlife, and also displacement of the rural people.
It was reported in The Star on July 23 that all these dams would complement the 2,400mw Bakun dam, pushing the total generating capacity in the state to 7,000mw by 2020, an increase of more than 600 per cent from the current capacity.
The plans for the dams were revealed during a presentation at the China Asean Power Cooperation and Development Forum in Nanning, China, in October last year.
The 48-slide presentation has been made available on the Internet and the presentation also said that Chinese companies were expected to design, build and commission the dams.
The report also said that Sarawak’s current energy output was 933mw and that it did not need any more energy.
But there were plans to expand the aluminium smelting industry in the state, which would need the planned output.
Furthermore, Bakun’s 2,400mw was originally meant for Peninsular Malaysia.
Deputy Minister of Energy, Water and Communications Datuk Joseph Salang however said that these dams were necessary as consumption was projected to increase with the development of Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE).
He told reporters in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday that the dams would only be approved if they passed the environmental impact assessment, and he did not expect the projects to materialise any time soon although the plan said the dams were slated to complete by 2020.