Saturday October 13, 2012
Can’t have one without the other
BINTULU: Many of the problems arising from the construction of hydroelectric dams in Sarawak are a result of the current method of calculating physical and social costs separately.
Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing (pic) said this based on his involvement in the development of two such projects — Batang Ai and Bakun dams — and the resettlement of the affected people.
“In both projects, the physical cost and the social cost, including resettlement, were treated separately. The existing methods have been and will be the source of future problems in dam construction,” he said when opening Bakun Industries Community Partnership International Dialogue here yesterday.
Recalling a visit to the Three Gorges Dams in China several years ago that involved the resettlement of more than a million people, Masing said he was informed that the total cost of construction was US$26bil, of which 55% was resettlement cost.
Highlighting that the cost of construction and resettlement was placed under one roof, he said the industrial needs in terms of power generated from the dams must take into account the resettlement of the people affected.
“The viability or the economics of the dam construction must take into account the overall cost of the whole project, both physical as well as social. Industrial needs and the people’s needs must be considered on the same level of importance. The requirements of one must not be at the expense of the other.
“The people affected by the dam cannot be seen as paying for the needs of the industry or vice versa. They are both stakeholders of the project. A symbiotic relationship between the industrial players and the native community must be allowed to evolve and grow so that better understanding is established,” said Masing.
Emphasising the need for a symbiotic relationship, he added: “Each one of us has a part to play to move this nation forward. The element of force, or worse still, the element of blackmailing by one or both parties, must never be allowed to surface.
“Therefore, the element of threat by saying this: ‘If you do not agree with our requests, we will do this.’ If this surfaces, there will be no winner. The winner will be those who wish us ill — those who have to gain by creating troubles and problems for us. These people are not stakeholders of our development.”
In this respect, he said the dialogue — organised by the Asap Koyan Development Committee — reflected that symbiotic relationship where all stakeholders needed each other to move forward.
The big industries that would benefit from Bakun dam’s power generation in Samalaju, Masing said, was a partnership that all stakeholders should contribute to and benefit from.
“Therefore, the interest of the people of Bakun HEP whose land and properties are affected, must be taken into account. It is the government’s as well as the business community’s responsibility to ensure that they share the benefits derived from Samalaju's industrial development.”