Protesters block site of major Borneo dam

29 October 2013

Hundreds of indigenous Malaysians have blockaded the entrance to the construction site of a new hydro-electric dam which activists believe will force communities from their homes on the island of Borneo.

Activists claim construction of the Baram dam will flood 400 square kilometres of rainforest and displace about 20,000 tribespeople but Sarawak Energy (SEB), the state-owned company behind the project, insists the villagers are being fairly compensated.

The Baram dam, once built, will generate 1.2GW and is part of a "highly controversial flagship hydropower initiative" to attract industries to Sarawak, one of Malaysia’s poorest states, reported Al Jazeera.

This orang-utan lives in a forest reserve in the state of Sarawak and could be in danger if the area is flooded (Credit: Eleifert/Wikimedia)

The 2.4GW Bakun dam already provides Sarawak with more than double the state’s current energy needs but has been condemned by Transparency International as a "graft-plagued ecological catastrophe".

Another, the Murum dam, has been blockaded since last month and just recently police were called in to make arrests after fighting broke out.

Swiss-based activists at the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) said the protests would "add pressure on the Malaysian government" ahead of a key UN meeting in Geneva where Malaysia’s human rights records were to be discussed by the Human Rights Council.

The BMF has nominated Sarawak Energy for the so-called "Public Eye Award", which singles out companies believed by the judges to be "the most despicable".

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