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Sustainability & Renewable Energy Forum conference: role of hydropower in Sarawak

The Borneo Project’s local partner SAVE Rivers is participating in Sarawak Energy’s Sustainability & Renewable Energy Forum, SAREF, starting today in Kuching. With its attendance, SAVE Rivers is ensuring the negative impacts of dams on Sarawak’s community and environment are not side-lined in this international event. SAVE Rivers is accompanying community representatives from the Baram and Bakun regions to bring attention to their negative experiences with dam implementation and planning.

With SAREF, Sarawak Energy and the Ministry of Utilities are calling on 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 encourage the organisers as well as the participants to bear in mind that those profiting from large hydropower are seldom rural communities in need of electricity. On the contrary, isolated indigenous rural communities are typically the ones losing out when it comes to dam construction, and the environmental destruction, damage to rivers and displacement that follows. With poor communities being the focus of the SDGs, Southeast Asian governments should be turning to people-centred technologies — such as solar and micro-hydro — rather than repeating the mistakes of the past by constructing new mega-dams.

Edward Ugah from 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.”

Ms. 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 die without receiving compensation for their inundated farms and lands.”

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. 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.”

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