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Environment 101: Power Legacy Hungry In Sarawak

(The internet is an interesting place to get information)

Politicians do the darndest things, don’t they? Just the other day, Bernama reported this:-

Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud is confident that Sarawak’s 45th anniversary celebration of its development in Malaysia, which starts today, will be an occasion for all Sarawakians, especially the younger generation, to reflect on the struggles of its past leaders.

Past leaders, hmmm, what about the current ones? Interestingly, in today’s papers, there is a story of Sarawak going to build 12 dams:-

Sarawak plans to build 12 hydroelectric dams to meet its future industrialization needs. The move has got environmentalists up in arms, questioning the need for the dams and the planned development of the state. They also suggested that Sarawak’s national park may be threatened.

12 dams does seems like a lot for one state. Not enough with Bakun Dam (which has its own controversies), Sarawak is going ahead with another 11 more?

(Bakun Dam “still” in the making. Image source:

And certainly that spells problems, not only to the environment (they need to flood large areas for the dam) but also the way, the proposal is being submitted:-

Centre for Environmental Technology and Development Malaysia chairman Gurmit Singh expressed concerns over the plan. He said the proposal to build the dams and then look for energy-guzzling industries to use the energy was wrong.

If the government is taking cue from the real property’s “build & sale” concept (build first, sell later), we are not amused. And if one add the concept of supply & demand, it seems to get even worse:-

Currently, Sarawak’s energy output is 933MW and it does not need any more energy.

However, there are plans to expand the aluminium-smelting industry in the state which will need the planned output. Furthermore, the Bakun dam’s 2,400MW was originally meant for peninsular Malaysia.

Let me get this straight – Sarawak does not need the extra electricity but going ahead to build 11 more dams? Is another “sodomy” is in the making? Extra dams are going to increase the capacity for more than 600% from the current capacity. And for what?

Didn’t Anwar during the last public debate on fuel price revealed that Tenaga Nasional already has a 40% over-capacity reserve (which means the Peninsular may not need the extra “juices” from Bakun and which can be re-directed to Sarawak’s needs)?

If the extra electricity is for aluminum smelting industry, then just how much of electricity is need for the smelting process? According to a study by the The Australia Institute in 2002

It is calculated that Australian smelters consume an average of 15.2 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity per tonne of aluminium produced

And just how many tonnes of aluminium that the smelters in Sarawak intend to produce in future? What if available electricity is not enough for their demand? Will the Government built more dams? Does we really need a energy guzzling industry in Malaysia, just when the cost of fuel has gone up?

What if the electricity is more than enough for smelters? Where the over capacity reserve from these 11 dams is going to go? Add back to Tenaga’s 40%?

And whilst this is happening, Malaysiakini now reports that the Sarawak’s plan to build a hydroelectric dam threatens the World Heritage status of the Mulu National Park. The “issues” on the additional 11 dams just gotten interesting.

Is there more to this side of the story? Abdul Taib – your comments?

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