By Peter Kallang
The suggestion by Sarawak Premier Abang Johari Openg for the building of cascade hydroelectric dams is not a new idea.
It was also suggested in 2015 by Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia.
However, at that time, the suggestion by the former prime minister was labeled as “impractical and costly” by the then CEO of Sarawak Energy Bhd, Torstein Dale Sjotveit.
The reasons given by Torstein Dale Sjotveit were:
- Cascade dams are more costly than mega-hydroelectric dams
- Compared to mega-hydroelectric dams, cascade dams have lower energy production
- Cascade dams are incapable of producing power all year round, as they depend on the flow of the rivers – which means during the dry seasons, the turbines cannot function
- Sign up for Aliran's free daily email updates or weekly newsletters or both
- Make a one-off donation to Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara, CIMB a/c 8004240948
- Make a pledge or schedule an auto donation to Aliran every month or every quarter
- Become an Aliran member
In the media, Abang Johari is quoted as saying that the “waterfall through the turbines” produces bubbles and therefore oxygen for fish.
However, such a statement has to be backed by proper and professional studies.
More hydroelectric dams should not be built. It is not just about the environment, which has some very serious problems in itself. But it is even worse considering the social and human rights issues. Some of these issues from existing hydroelectric dams are still not resolved and leave a severe long-term drawback for affected communities.
Peter Kallang is a longtime activist based in Sarawak.