‘Green Hydrogen’ Or GPS’s SCORE Mega-Dam Programme Back Under A New Name?

Monday June 10th sees the opening in Kuching with much official fanfare of what has been billed as the Asia-Pacific (APGH) ‘Green Hydrogen’ Conference 2024 under the following concept:

The region’s large and growing demands for clean energy present significant market opportunities for developing a green hydrogen industry with supportive government policies and abundant of renewable energy resources.
Sarawak is the ideal host for APGH 2024 as the state embarks on its journey towards a green economy by 2030 with a specific focus on green hydrogen

Is this just another state government showcase strategy, such as the Asia ‘airport hub’, or is it something more purposeful and immediate?

Barely a day goes by where the Borneo Post and sister papers fail to trumpet yet another foreign initiative embraced by the present ‘Premier’, as if Sarawak were a benighted territory desperate for outside funds to help its people.

Of course, this is not true. Thanks to newly enhanced oil and gas revenues, which for decades were permitted by the self-same leadership to be snatched by the federal government (until reformers including this website drove them to demand more) Sarawak is now officially a high income country.

In short, there are substantial funds available from these and other natural resources to transform lives and provide modern services to the majority of Sarawak’s small population of three million people who, nonetheless, still live in abject poverty whilst state ministers travel hyperactively and luxuriously round the world, build up their family business interests and guild their second, third and forth homes.

Yet, instead of enhancing rural facilities, all we hear about are projects flagged up by opportunistic foreign businessmen seeking to exploit Sarawak’s lands and resources for themselves. For example, Chinese factory pig farming or Chinese mass coffee growing enterprises which were both flagged up last week.

Both these industries could be developed by local enterprises, were state government support to be forthcoming for developing Sarawak rather than taking advantage of Sarawak.

Prepare for native lands to be requisitioned for these projects and foreign cheap labour to be imported to carry out the work. One can only imagine the enticements behind the scenes for the high level local enablers for such enterprises, however, as so often, the rewards for Sarawak and its people are hard to see.

The shocking lack of oversight, detail or transparency behind any of these state proposals announced by media, make it impossible to know what really is being planned behind the headlines for such ventures.

The state legislature barely sits, EIAs are hidden, opposition politicians (the few who kept their seats after the Covert Covid election) are kept off public scrutiny committees.  The basic data and documentation behind are never distributed, so the facts and detail behind the relentless rolling out of this project or that project with official backing are never revealed.

More Dams ?

Yet one particular special theme has been drumming louder than ever over the past few months and that is this so-called ‘Green Hydrogen’, billed by Sarawak’s leadership as the ‘energy of the future’ which Sarawak is apparently going to corner the market in for Asia.

There has been little detail beyond various hints that this involves the use of hydropower (generated by dams) to generate hydrogen which can be canistered, then loaded on to gas guzzling cargo ships to the likes of Japan and South Korea, which have both expressed interest in using purported ‘green hydrogen’ to power their cities in order to achieve their national ‘net zero’ targets …. statistics which clearly fail to include the international climate destructive, carbon producing environmental nightmare of creating dams in Borneo then transporting all those canisters across the seas.

And now a ‘Green Hydrogen Conference’ to cap the months of hints and promotional fanfare for supposedly eco-friendly ‘cascading’ dams and plans for becoming a ‘green energy hub’.

What all this signifies is that, stealthily and behind the scenes, the Sarawak leadership appears to be gearing up to return to its original massive SCORE programme for 12 new mega-dams, developed under Taib Mahmud with Chinese state construction companies but later shelved in the face of massive public protest.

Why else have we seen such focused and persistent demands to shake off all remaining federal oversight in favour of constant claims of “full autonomy over the environment”, pushed in particular by deputy prime minister, Fadillah Yusof, whose family is at the heart of the political/business nexus in Sarawak and who has also, just by chance, grabbed the new “Ministry of Energy Transition and Water Transformation” as well?

Amongst the most troubling of the recent announcements for local communities in Sarawak have been exactly those referring to so-called “Cascade Dams”, vaguely understood to be targeted at three regions of  the Tutoh, Belaga and Kapit rivers.

There is no need to worry, the ever enthusiastic Premier has gushed to dutiful reporters, because ‘Cascade’ dams do not disturb the rivers like other ordinary mega-dams and they get rid of crocodiles on top!

Yet no details are being provided as to what these “Cascade Dams” are supposed to entail, where they are exactly supposed to be placed or what deal, if any, will be done to guarantee benefits for the people’s whose rivers and lands will be destroyed.

Look at the poverty at Batang Ai, the poverty at Bakun, the poverty at Murum and Belaga (communities by-passed by the electricity generated from the mega-dams on their rivers) and explain what is so different with these projected ‘Cascade Dams’, which is generally the term used for particularly challenging and dangerous constructions involving not just one mega-dam but multiple dams along the same river, such as the ones that burst in Libya last year and flooded in Kenya this year.

Maybe this week’s AsiaPacific Green Energy Conference 2024 (tickets RM3,500) will see an announcement of just those necessary basic details.

What seems clear is that this 2024 Conference is the first of its kind and, despite the grandiose regional title, is an initiative of the Sarawak State Government for their own promotional purposes, sponsored by none other than RECODA, the authority in charge of the SCORE mega dam strategy of old.

Interested parties behind Sarawak’s ‘Green Hydropower’ Platform

Also supporting the event, as so-called ‘Diamond Sponsors”, are the Japanese backed H2ornbill project and the Korean backed H2BISCUS project both of which have promoted plans to produce “Green Hydrogen” in Sarawak, and both of which have dam building capacity.

The narrative so far has been  that these two foreign projects hold the “potential to produce 240,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of green hydrogen, positioning the Sarawak Hydrogen Hub as one of the world’s largest producers of clean energy”.

Yet, what is unspoken so far are the crucial details about how the power to create this hydrogen will be developed. This is the information that the public and river dwellers of Sarawak (and anyone concerned about the environment and the negative impacts of dams on biodiversity and climate change) need to know.

Exactly what new dam facilities are being planned under Sarawak’s new found ‘environmental autonomy’ to generate all this massive amount of alleged ‘green’ energy?

And what is wrong with using the energy glut from Sarawak’s existing dams to bring proper energy to Sarawak’s local people instead of seeking to power up Kalimantan and Singapore and to create hydrogen for export to Korea and Japan?

All the signs are pointing to a massive yet covert programme underway, involving foreign dam builders and foreign businesses to industrialise Sarawak’s rivers and destroy its landscape to assist the ‘eco’ objectives of foreign countries, without the people of Sarawak being kept properly informed beyond a bundle of vague headlines and meaningless assurances.

Tell Sarawakians SCORE’S New Plans For Sarawak!

So, instead of holding more showcase events at prohibitive prices for these business opportunists to continue networking their plans and of producing more grand but bland announcements, the Sarawak leadership should stop being coy and spit out the full details of their new plans for SCORE 2.0.

Otherwise, let’s hear a full denial.

Will SCORE 2.0 involve the same Chinese state dam companies,  extending road and belt construction loans that bring jam today for local intermediaries but which the state and its people will have to pay back over many years?

Or have Japanese and Korean companies got in on the act instead?

What secret terms and conditions are being drawn up with these foreign collaborators and what deals are being done with which local businesses?

Above all, what concrete guarantees have been obtained, if any, for local people as political mouthpieces harp on the benefits of this unspecified ‘development’?

Reporters invited to the ‘AsiaPacific Green Hydrogen’ and tasked with reporting on the next stage of planned announcements should start asking far tougher questions and demanding far more detail about all these matters.


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