Home Civil Society Voices Cascade hydropower dams: Impractical and costly

Cascade hydropower dams: Impractical and costly


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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

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.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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