The Borneo Project releases new documentary on Sarawak’s controversial mega-dams
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The Borneo Project releases new documentary on Sarawak’s controversial mega-dams

The Borneo Project has released a new documentary film, ‘Commerce or Corruption?’,  exposing the controversies surrounding the proposed mega-dams in Sarawak, Malaysia.

The release this week coincides with the 555th day of the community-led Baram Dam blockades. Various local groups have been fighting to stop 12 mega-hydro projects being pushed by the Malaysian government through the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy or SCORE. The groups said the dams will destroy the rivers – the lifelines of the Borneo jungle. It is feared the Baram Dam alone will inundate 26 villages and displace between 6,000 and 20,000 people, if completed.

Jettie Word, executive director of The Borneo Project, said the dams will displace people, wipe out their livelihoods, drive unknown species to extinction, and emit more greenhouse gas. The dams will “produce more greenhouse gas emissions per megawatt of energy than a coal-fired power plant,” Word said, adding: “The damage inflicted by these dams would be massive, and the benefits are still unclear. Given that there is no sound reason to build these dams, the question becomes, why are these dams being built, and why now? ”

‘Commerce or Corruption?’ is a second film in a series of short documentaries that tries to unveil the government’s hidden agenda. Word said it is all about personal financial gains, adding that private companies involved in construction and transmission stand to make gigantic profits from building the dams. Many of the companies are allegedly controlled by relatives and friends of the governor of the state, Abdul Taib Mahmud, who has been in power for four decades. Doling out the contracts would add even more gold to the already over-flowing coffers of politicians and their well-connected family members.


Murum Dam under construction (Photo:Supplied)

The mega-dams are also expected to create “an outrageous” energy demand growth rate. Word said Sarawak currently produces significantly more energy than it can use, and proponents have no concrete plans for how to use or sell the energy.

The ongoing Baram Dam blockades, community-led non-violent direct actions, involve men, women and children and have prevented loggers and the dam developer, Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB), from accessing the construction area since October 2013.

The blockade is maintained by indigenous Kenyah, Kayan, and Penan people and demonstrates the tremendous local resistance to dam development and logging. Despite opposition to the dams, the government of Sarawak and SEB continue to overlook widespread grievances and push for unnecessary and harmful development. If completed, the Baram Dam will flood 26 villages and displace between 6,000 and 20,000 people.

‘Broken Promises’, the next film in the series, will be released in July. It will highlight the devastating impacts of forced relocation on indigenous communities.

The office of Taib is yet to respond to the film.

Commerce or Corruption? from The Borneo Project on Vimeo.

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