FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: 10th June 2015
Miri – The earthquake in Sabah on 5th June is a stern warning of the potential disaster which the proposed Baram dam could bring. But the proponents of the dam, especially Sarawak Energy Bhd seems to take a lacklustre attitude towards this impending hazard. The approach taken by Sarawak Energy Bhd regarding dam building is in contrast to professionalism and international standards.
Based on the front page article in The Borneo Post on 10th June 2015, entitled “Hidden danger underground” the Sabah earthquake and the proposed Baram dam brought contradictory comments from two key persons on seismological studies and mega dams. One is a professional geologist, Mr. Alexander Yan, who is a member of the Board of Geologist Malaysia, Member of Institute of Geologist Malaysia and a former director of Minerals and Geoscience Department and the other was a comment by Datuk Torstein Dale Sjotviet, the Chief Executive Officer of Sarawak Energy Bhd. Based on a seismotectonic map which Mr. Alexander Yan used and published in The Borneo Post on 10th June, the proposed site for the Baram dam is in “close vicinity of two fault lines”. Mr. Yan highlighted that the fault line study must be carried out before the proposed Baram dam is constructed and the dam must not be built on an active fault line, but Datuk Torstein Dale Sjotviet was recently quoted that seismological studies was basically irrelevant for the Baram and Baleh dams.
Even without the two fault lines which are in close vicinity of the proposed Baram dam, mega dams themselves can cause earthquakes which are called “Reservoir Induced Seismicity (RIS). Based on a report done by International Rivers, “earthquakes can be induced by dams. Globally, there are over 100 identified cases of earthquakes that scientists believe were triggered by reservoirs. The most serious case may be the 7.9 – magnitude Schuan earthquake in May 2008, which killed an estimated 80,000 people and has been linked to the construction of the Zipingpu Dam.” The International Commission on Large Dams recommends that RIS should be considered for dams with reservoir deeper than 100 m and based on available information, the height of the proposed Baram dam is 162 m. [i]
When asked for comments, Mr. Desa Lawai from Long Jeh, Baram said, “SEB should scrape the plan for building the Baram dam. Based on the professional opinion, it is a great danger. We do not want to live under that threat nor do we want to move from our homes.” While Mr. Henry Sigau from Long Tungan said, “SEB and the Sarawak state government must weigh their priority carefully because dams destroy people, forest and economy.” Mr. Peter Kallang the chairman of SAVE Rivers in his comment said, “SEB must be professional in their approach and think long term rather than dirty and instant profit. We in Sarawak have alternative means to generate power which are sustainable, people centered and environmentally clean.”
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