Tuesday, October 21, 2008

BAKUN DAM – the long story.

Bakun dam, the long story, when will this end? Many if not most Malaysians, especially, Sarawakians have been kept in the dark of the development of Bakun, with so much money and secrets surrounding the project. All documents involving Bakun are classified documents under the Official Secrets Act 1972. It was planned that the project will costs about RM9.12 billion and how much money will eventually be spent on completion, nobody will ever know. The undersea submarine cable to West Malaysia was estimated to cost a whopping RM9 billion!

Bakun dam should generate 2,400 megawatts of electricity and would flood an area as big as Singapore! The dam will cost approximately 23,000 hectares of good agricultural land and forests! When completed, Bakun will be the largest dam in South East Asia and the second largest in the world. The plan was that Bakun will have about 650 kilometres of undersea cable to West Malaysia and once completed will be the longest undersea cable in the world surpassing the current Norway to Netherlands submarine cable.

The dam was originally proposed in the early 1960s and has long complex history. From 1970s to 1980s there were detail examination of the Bakun dam site, preparation and development proposals and in 1986 the BN government decided that the Bakun dam be built. In 1990 the Bakun dam project met some setbacks and the project was then postponed. The project was then revived in 1993 and the BN government awarded the construction of the project to Ekran Berhad and constructions begun in 1996. Due to economic crisis facing Malaysia, the Bakun dam project again was postponed in 1997 for the second time.

When the BN government shelved the project, the taxpayer paid a heavy price with RM700 million to RM1.1 billion as “compensation” to a Malaysian public listed company as disclosed in Parliament.

In May 2000 Bakun dam was revived through a 100% government owned company, Sarawak Hidro, but, the transmission of power to West Malaysia was not part of the revived project.

In 2002 the BN government awarded the project to Malaysia-China Hydro Joint Venture and the Bakun dam was supposed to be completed and delivered to the government in 2007, but, the Bakun dam is still under construction. Before the new completion date of 2007, it was said should be competed in February 2002. So the story goes on and when will this end? What will be the total cost and environmental impact of Bakun? Only God knows!

The construction of Bakun involves the relocation of more than 9,000 native residents. The area for the construction of Bakun dam has one of the highest rates of plants and animal endemism. It was said some plant species found there are no where found on earth and the dam has done irreparable ecological damage to the region. Some 16% of the total logs production of Sarawak once came from the area will soon see no log production again.

The first crack in the dam project was on September 3, 1997 when the Swedish engineering firm ABB was informed that the agreement for it to serve as chief contractor had been cancelled as there was disagreement of costs overrun with the promoter of the project. Once the dam becomes operational, will it cracked? If government buildings in Putrajaya could crack after few years of being built, there is also no reason, why the Bakun dam one day would not crack. If this may happen, the impact could be worst than the Szechuan earthquakes in China! Let us now be prepared!

In early November 1999, Anwar Ibrahim testified in the High Court in his sodomy trial that he was directed by Dr. Mahathir to use treasury funds to compensate a public listed company involved in Bakun project without proper audit and procedures. Anwar went to say that it was not his duty as a finance minister to “plunder” public funds to save any company. According to Anwar, it ended in his dismissal on September 2, 1998.

In the end, the Bakun dam project will not be engineering and science, but, merely an expert prostitution of public fund paid for by Malaysian taxpayers to cronies!

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