The developer of a massive hydroelectric project in Borneo plans to set fire to thousands hectares of logged over rainforest in the dam area, contributing to polluting haze already blanketing the region and raising the risk of forest fires in adjacent areas, reports a local environmental group.
The Sarawak Conservation Action Network (SCANE) has learned that Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd, the operator of the Bakun Hydroelectric Power Dam project, is in the process of clear-cuting 80,000 hectares (200,000 acres) of rainforest set to be flooded by the dam. The remnants are being torched, in direct violation of Malaysia’s laws against open burning.
“SCANE was told that one of the conditions as stipulated in the contract is that the contractors and/or its sub-contractors, agents and/or workers are required to do burnings on the cleared and felled forest, without which they would not be fully paid for the work done and/or their contract would be terminated. Over the past few months, large tracts of forest have already been cleared and felled within the Bakun dam reservoir area…
Bakun dam in Sarawak. For details see David Tryse’s Flooding Borneo’s rainforest: Sarawak’s confidential dam plans 2008-2020 [Google Earth KMZ file]
With the current long spell dry weather, the Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd’s contractors and/or its sub-contractors, agents and/or workers have been doing a series of forest burnings. SCANE has received reports that there were open burnings carried out in the area. Fires were reported at different locations and sites in the area…
The unscrupulous activity of clearing and open burning of forests by Sarawak Hidro within the Bakun dam reservoir area is clearly violating to the Natural Resources and Environment Ordinance (NREO). It is such outrageous that Sarawak Hidro actions to wipe out the forest within the reservoir area without having any sense of responsibility and sensitivity toward the environment, though knowingly that its activity would cause immeasurable impacts to environment.
Green groups have fought the 2400-megawatt Bakun dam for more than a decade, citing displacement of forest communities and destruction of biologically-rich rainforest as chief concerns. The dam, which will create a reservoir the size of Singapore, will generate electricity for mining projects as well as power-hungry cities in Singapore and other parts of Malaysia.
In recent months Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia have been plagued by “haze”, resulting from large-scale bush and forest fires. Malaysia has a ban on open-burning but the rule is widely flouted by plantation developers and farmers.