Malaysian energy company Sarawak Energy, responsible for the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity for the Malaysian state of Sarawak, has come under fire recently for the details of their Resettlement Action Plan offered to those who are being affected by the construction of the Murum Hydroelectric Project.
According to Sarawak, the “many statements, rumours and commentaries by parties external to Sarawak Energy, regarding compensation packages highlighted in the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) of the Murum Hydroelectric Project (HEP) have caused confusion among the affected communities.”
As such, the company has released a statement on their website striking back at those they deem to be using the RAP for their own agenda.
Sarawak Energy didn’t strike lightly, either, condemining those “certain NGOs” who “have instigated the communities to lobby for additional compensation packages that are unrealistic, unachievable, and in contradiction to the growth and the development that the HEPs will deliver to all Sarawakians.” They add that “this recent escalation of misinformation campaigning by certain NGOs and anti-dam proponents must be addressed before their fictional commentary shines the negative global spotlight on Sarawak or halts the State’s ability to deliver sustainable growth and development to all of the 2.5 million residents of the State.”
The Murum Hydroelectric Project is located on the Murum River, the uppermost portion of the Rajang River basin. In total, the upstream Rajang River includes four steps — Pelagus, Bakun, Murum, and Belaga — and each will one day be home to a part of the Step-Hydroelectric Project. Already the Bakun Dam is completed, and the Murum Dam is expected to be completed later this year.
The Murum Hydroelectric Project will complete with a capacity of 944 MW, and is expected to be able to produce an average annual output of 5,542 GWh of electricity. The project — the largest construction project currently being undertaken by Sarawak Energy — is being constructed by Three Gorges Development Company Malaysia (TGDCM), unsurprisingly given Three Gorges experience building the Three Gorgest Dam — the world’s largest hydroelectric power plant.
Speaking to the ‘misinformation campaign’, Sarawak Energy CEO Datuk Torstein Dale Sjøtveit said:
“There are two things to consider here. Firstly, Sarawak’s 2.5 million population wants development and the benefits that development brings such as higher salaries, better infrastructure, upgraded medical facilities and world class education. Secondly the HEP affected indigenous communities of Murum are currently living well below the poverty line and the State Government wants all Sarawakians to live above the poverty line. Why shouldn’t Sarawakians be able to taste the fruits of development enjoyed by citizens of the more developed nations?”
The Resettlement Action Plan released by Sarawak Energy and the State Government was created to meet ” the best-practices and international standards as laid out in UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on The Rights of Indigenous People) and the International Hydropower Association (IHA) Protocol.” The communities displaced by the creation of the Murum Hydroelectric Project will receive:
- 15 hectares of land per household on the basis of one (1) hectare per household for community purposes, and 14 hectares for agriculture
- Forest access to wildlife and forest produce – total area of up to 20,000 hectares
- RM15,000 cash payment per household upon relocation (that includes ex-gratia payment, moving grant and traditional ritual ceremonies)
- Temporary Income Support valued at RM850 a month from the time they are resettled at the new resettlement village
- Free housing – One unit in a longhouse per family, measuring about 1,300 sq. ft.
- Clean and stable water supply
- Electricity supply with subsidized monthly allocation of RM40 per family
- Integrated community halls with chapel and kindergarten
- Medical assistance
- Own garden plot per family
To complement the above RAP is a support program that has been planned for up to the year 2020, which will facilitate sustainable living for relocated communities and help lift the affected communities above the poverty line.
Speaking about the development standards, Torstein said, “As with any project undertaken over the world, there are always improvements that can be made and lessons learned. We have adopted international standards in our delivery of the Murum HEP and if we undertake another hydropower project in the future, we continue to follow these standards, add new processes and improve, taking into account the best practices learned during the development of the Murum HEP.”
“We have been transparent and provided regular updates to all stakeholders. If anyone has any questions, we urge them to contact us directly via email at email@example.com . We would also look forward to hearing from the very vocal NGOs, action groups currently present in Geneva and the organisation who nominated Sarawak Energy for the Public Eye awards. We would love to hear from the NGOs on how they propose the State to deploy transformational projects that can elevate all Sarawakians and lift per capita income across the board if not through hydroelectric projects?,” added Torstein.
Given the desperate need for renewable energy projects like the Murum Hydroelectric Project, one can hardly place too much blame on the Malaysian or Sarawak governments, nor Sarawak Energy. There is room for debate — as with any project of this magnitude affecting so many people and geographical locations — but there is similarly no need for the spread of misinformation Sarawak Energy believes has taken place.
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