Monday, August 17, 2009


Is it worth it? Well, the locals will suffer. Mother nature will suffer.

Monday August 17, 2009
Developer plans to use fire to clear Bakun dam area

BAKUN: An environmental crisis may be looming in Sarawak following revelations that the developer of the Bakun Hydroelectric Dam plans to set fire to an area the size of Singapore.

Sarawak Conservation Action Network coordinator Raymond Abin told The Star yesterday that it had information that the burning of the leftovers in the 64,000ha area had begun as a prelude to the flooding of the reservoir.

“We are shocked that the entire reservoir area will be set on fire in order to clear all the leftovers.

“The reservoir is the size of Singapore. Imagine the havoc to the environment if the burning is allowed to be done in such a huge area.

“This is a shortcut for the developer as a way of getting rid of the debris instead of carting it away,” he said, adding that contractors were already setting fires to the debris and burning it to ashes at various locations within the reservoir area.

The developer, Abin pointed out, could have carted the debris out but such a measure would take a long time and is expensive.

“An environmental crisis is waiting to happen in Bakun if the authorities do not step in and stop this,” he said, adding that the burning could cause large-scale air pollution and destruction of whatever was left of the Bakun ecosystem.

“The recent fires and haze episode in Miri which have caused air pollution for a whole month showed how much damage such burning can cause to the environment and to humans,” he noted.

The network is a coalition of more than a dozen environmental and native rights action groups, including the Borneo Resources Institute, the Indigenous Peoples’ Deve-lopment Centre and the Customary Rights of Sarawak’s Indigenous People Network.

Abin said the dam developer, Sarawak Hidro, was rushing to clear the reservoir area of debris because the impoundment of the dam was set for October.

“They want to get the reservoir flooded as soon as possible so that power generation can start next year.

“We have information that the Bakun dam developer has not obtained any open burning permit. Why is the Department of Environ-ment and the Sarawak Natural Resources and Environment Board so silent about this?” he asked.

The Star had entered the Bakun region between July 27 and 30 and found tracts of huge logged areas already being burned.

Sarawak Hidro managing director Zulkifle Osman acknowledged that the clearing of biomass in the Bakun reservoir had started, but he did not elaborate on the method.

However, he did say that efforts would be made to rescue as much of the wildlife and endangered plants as possible before the flooding.

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