Sarawak’s 12 Dam Projects Exempted Due To Court Of Appeal Ruling
The Star. 28 July 2008
PETALING JAYA: The construction of 12 dams in Sarawak does not need to undergo Federal environment impact assessment (EIA) requirements due to a Court of Appeal ruling 11 years ago.
The ruling, pertaining to the Bakun dam project, said the Sarawak Government had jurisdiction over land matters and hence the Environmental Quality Act did not apply in the state.
Centre for Environmental Technology and Development Malaysia chairman Gurmit Singh said this meant the dam projects would follow the state’s environment regulations and could bypass federal laws.
“According to the state’s regulations, EIAs on such projects do not need to be scrutinised by the public,” he pointed out.
Gurmit said that if NGOs or affected stakeholders were to ask for EIAs under such circumstances, it would be pointless.
“It is just like a window dressing. How could we help without knowing what is inside or what the recommendations are?” he asked.
Universiti Malaya Centre of Excellence for Biodiversity Law director Prof Gurdial Singh Nijar, who fought the Bakun case on behalf of the indigenous people, said the ruling had indeed set a precedent.
“What this means is that it is a permissible legal route – the state government can take the same route in executing the projects.”
Prof Gurdial and Gurmit were both responding to the plan to build 12 hydroelectric dams in Sarawak that will push the total generating capacity in the state to 7,000MW by 2020 – an increase of 600% from the current capacity.
The dams will be located at Ulu Air, Metjawah, Belaga, Baleh, Belepeh, Lawas, Tutoh, Limbang, Baram, Murum and Linau rivers. The plan will also see an extension to the Batang Ai dam.
Gurmit added that apart from the legislation problem, the concept of EIAs as a whole needed to be re-looked to ensure that it was done independently.
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