Friday, October 30, 2009

Minor Among 22 Arrested In Wildlife Operation

October 30, 2009

KUANTAN, Oct 30 (Bernama) -- Twenty-two people, including a minor, were arrested by the Pahang Wildlife Protection and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) during a nine-day operation which ended yesterday.

Pahang Perhilitan director Khairiah Mohd Shariff said the department had solved 10 wildlife hunting cases with the arrests of the suspects, all males aged between 16 and 55.

"The teenager was arrested with six men for hunting mouse deer in the Kemasul jungle near Bentong last Saturday.

"They were nabbed when we stopped a four-wheel-drive vehicle at 5.20am near the jungle and saw them behaving in a suspicious manner," she told reporters here on Friday.

Following a search, she said, nine mouse deer and a skinned porcupine were found in the boot of their vehicle.

Khairiah said the department believed that the wildlife was to be sold to interested parties, besides for their own consumption.

A total of 18 mouse deer, four "burung wak-wak" (white-breasted waterhen), six loaded guns, four knives and 88 animal traps were seized in the nine-day operation mounted by 79 Perhilitan personnel, she said,

They were being investigated for attempting to smuggle fully protected species or hunting wildlife during the prohibited season, she added.


Court Grants Orang Asli Leave To Review Environment Department's Decision

October 30, 2009

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 30 (Bernama) -- Twenty-seven Orang Asli were granted leave by the High Court here on Friday to seek a judicial review of the Department of Environment (DOE) director-general's decision to approve the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for the Kelau Dam project in Raub, Pahang.

Justice Datuk Alizatul Khair Osman Khairuddin made the order in chambers after dismissing a preliminary objection by senior federal counsel Azizah Nawawi, of the DOE, who contended that the application was filed out of time.

Pendor Anger and 26 others, from the Senoi and Temuan indigenous tribe, filed the application at the High Court registry on Oct 9, 2007, naming the director-general of DOE and the Pahang and Malaysian governments as respondents.

They claimed that the land involved in the project was passed down to them by their ancestors and that it was where they find livelihood for their families.

They also claimed that the EIA report did not meet the DOE's Environmental Impact Assessment Guidelines dan Environmental Impact Assessment Guidelines for Dams.

The applicants said the EIA report was doubtful as it failed to cover detailed and reasonable studies on the impact on wildlife as well as give data and enviromental assessment on the affected area.

They also said that they knew nothing about the EIA report which was approved by the government on April 24, 2001 until their counsel told them.

They want a declaration that the government, by approving the dam project, has breached its fiduciary duty to protect the Orang Asli, and costs and other reliefs deemed fit by the court.

The applicants were represented by counsel Kamarul Hisham Kamaruddin.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More questions raised over Murum Dam project

When corrupt politicians stayed in power for too long....this will be the consequences. They couldn't care a hoot about nature and the natives.


Oct 27, 2009
More questions raised over Murum Dam project

MURUM (Sarawak): Environmental organisations are aghast to find that the construction of the RM3bil Murum Dam in central Sarawak has already proceeded despite the fact that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report was only released less than two weeks ago.

Sarawak Conservation Action Network (Scane), a coalition of more than a dozen environmental and community rights groups, said the way the state government had carried out the project was a cause for deep concern.

Scane director Raymond Abin told The Star on Tuesday that the EIA for the Murum project was only made public on Oct 18 and the Social Impact Assessment report is not even ready yet, but site- and road-clearing at the Murum Valley in Belaga district have already gone full-steam ahead.

“The developer for the Murum project (a Malaysia-China consortium led by Sarawak Energy Bhd) had only just finished the EIA report. I have a copy with me. It was only completed recently (on Oct 18).

“The report has not been gazetted as yet or tabled for discussion at official levels. The Department of Environment (DOE) has not given its approval for the report nor has the public been given a chance to express their views on it. The Social Impact Assessment has not been completed yet.

“Despite all this, the construction of the Murum Dam is already in full progress,” he said.

“The natives affected by the project have not even agreed to the relocation plan proposed by the state government. Their native land has not been surveyed. They have not been offered any compensation and yet project construction has already started,” he added.

The Star paid a visit to the Murum Valley, located 70km inland from the Bakun Dam, and found that the access road into the site earmarked for the 80m high dam had already been paved.

Trucks, lorries and four-wheel drives were making their way into and out of the Murum Valley, transporting heavy equipment, workers and raw materials like steel, cement, gravel, fuel and the like.

The dam will flood about 30,000 hectares of the Murum Valley to create a reservoir that can feed water into a generation plant to produce about 900 MWs of electricity by 2013.

Some 2,800 people, including 1,800 Penans, will have to be uprooted from eight settlements in the Murum Valley.

Abin said the manner in which the Murum Dam had proceeded without prior EIA approval and without the resettlement issues being resolved showed that the state government had no intention of negotiating or considering the plight of the affected natives.

“There is no genuine concern for the people affected by the project. In fact, some of the affected Penans said the blasting in the Murum Valley (to create the access road on the hillslopes) had started even last year, long before the state government had announced its intention to start the project.

“The affected natives had protested to the Chief Minister (in September) but to no avail,” he said.

A check with the Belaga District Office showed that the Murum Dam EIA report can be viewed by interested parties at the office’s premise.

The Murum Dam is the first of 12 new dams that are to be constructed throughout Sarawak.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Anti-logging enforcement poor in Sarawak

October 26, 2009

KUALA LUMPUR: Enforcement activities to prevent illegal logging, unauthorised settlement and other offences are lax in Sarawak, revealed the Auditor-General’s Report 2008.

It found that between 2006 and last year, 668 offences were detected, of which 558 were illegal logging.

Between 2006 and 2008, the audit found 94,008sq metres of forest were illegally logged, yielding 272,588 timber logs costing RM2.3mil. In 2006, only 29,179 logs were taken.

“Audit analysis on illegal logging and other offences found that the numbers continued to increase year after year,” it said.

However, the report also found that the state forestry department faced manpower shortage.

It said that out of 88 rangers, only 48 were able to carry out enforcement work. “The rest have not been supplied with safety equipment such as firearms and training in enforcement and security,” it added. It also said the target to achieve at least six million hectares of permanent forest reserve and one million hectares of fully protected forest in Sarawak would not be met unless the state government gazetted forest areas that need to be replaced following logging activities.

Tiger saved from poachers dies of infection

October 26, 2009

MALACCA: The wounded male tiger that was rescued from a poachers snare in the Royal Belum National Park early this month died in the Malacca Zoo on Tuesday.

National Parks and Wildlife Departments deputy director-general Misleah Mohd Basir said the tiger died of infection and extreme stress after undergoing surgery to amputate its right foreleg.

“We tried our best to save it first by treating the injured foreleg followed by a subsequent amputation but infection had already spread and the tiger had suffered extreme stress,” she said after closing the World Wild Life Week event at the Malacca Zoo yesterday.

The 120kg tiger was rescued from the forest reserve on Oct 4 by Perak wildlife authorities after receiving information that the animal had been ensnared by an illegal trap.

It was given emergency treatment in Perak before being sent to the National Wildlife Rescue Centre at the Malacca Zoo the next day for surgery and follow-up treatment.

Misleah acknowledged the shortage of a veterinarian at the rescue centre but denied that it was a factor in the tiger’s death.

“The tiger was treated by veterinarians from Kuala Lumpur and was monitored by an assistant based at the centre here,” she added.

In 1987, an injured male tiger was rescued from a snare and treated at the centre here. Although it had only three limbs, the tiger, named Harimau Puchong, went on to become the best animal under the zoo’s breeding programme.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Zoo Negara: An Out-of-Date Facility

At a first glance, Zoo Negara—set in the Malaysian jungle—looks like a natural setting for the animals who live there, but a closer look at the outdated enclosures (many of which were originally built in the 1980s) reveals environments that can never compare to the lush jungles, forests, grasslands, rivers, and oceans these animals call home.

Three hippos spend their miserable lives in a tiny enclosure, no bigger than your average studio apartment. A group of Malaysian sun bears constantly pant and pace around a barren enclosure, the grass worn down from their endless circles. One brown bear, who in the wild would live in cool climates like those in Russia and Canada, throws himself repeatedly against the side of his enclosure—literally having been driven insane from his confinement and boredom—while his cagemate paces. These repetitive, abnormal, and often self-destructive behaviors are called "zoochosis."

Near the front of the zoo, two Malaysian elephants are confined to a barren dirt enclosure; their only enrichment is a log and an old tire. One of the elephants is frequently chained by two of his legs—he can only move a few inches in any direction and spends his time swaying his head from side to side. Wild elephant herds roam up to 80 kilometers a day—activity that is essential to their well-being—but the entire Zoo Negara measures only 0.5 square kilometers. In the wild, these elephants would graze, pluck fruit and leaves from trees, take mud baths, and spend hours a day swimming and playing in the water.

An Oxford University study based on four decades of observing animals in captivity and in the wild found that animals such as lions, tigers, and cheetahs "show the most evidence of stress and/or psychological dysfunction in captivity" and concluded that "the keeping of naturally wide-ranging carnivores should be either fundamentally improved or phased out." Zoo Negara houses several lions, tigers, and jaguars—all of whom live in enclosures that can never meet their natural needs to roam, hunt, and play.

Zoos claim that they educate people and preserve species, but they rarely succeed on either count. Zoos present visitors with a distorted view of wildlife. Even the biggest zoos cannot provide the space, exercise, privacy, or mental stimulation needed by the animals they imprison, much less fulfill their other complex needs.

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More sad story on zoo - Monkey business here

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Iban detained over anti-logging blockade

24 October 2009

KAPIT - Malaysian police said Saturday they had arrested a native leader who set up roadblocks in Borneo to stop a logging firm from encroaching on their ancestral land.

Ondie Jugah, 55, from the Iban indigenous group, was among a group of 10 people who have mounted a blockade since early this week in the interior of eastern Sarawak state, on Borneo island.

Police said Ondie was detained late Friday after he refused to remove the blockade, following complaints filed by the logging company.

"We directed him to open up the road but he refused, so we have to take him back to facilitate investigation," a senior police official from the local Kapit district, who did not want to be named, told AFP.

Police said Ondie was expected to be released later Saturday after questioning.

Ondie's son, Anthony, urged the police to release his father, saying they were merely protecting their home.

"They (the logging company) want to destroy our land and did not want to compensate us," the 29-year-old told AFP.

Nicholas Mujah, secretary general of indigenous rights group Sarawak Dayak Iban Association, condemned the arrest as a form of "harassment" of the vulnerable group and demanded the authorities respect native land rights.

The native Iban people are the largest indigenous group in Sarawak, making up almost half of the state's two million population. Other indigenous groups include Kenyah, Kayan and about 10,000 Penan people.

The Penan, some of whom are nomadic hunter-gatherers, have complained that their way of life is under threat from extensive logging of their traditional hunting grounds, as well as the spread of palm oil and timber plantations. - AFP


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Another Great Loss of Biodiversity (Not 1 but 2 DAMned!)

More excuses to build more dams.
When they built Kenyir, they said it will last many many years.
Then they built Bakun, they said it can be exported to Peninsular Malaysia.
Now they want to build more dams (damned it) ..... and the motive?
Of course ....BALAK (timber) kepala otak hang!
Oct 11, 2009
TNB plans to build two dams in Terengganu and Pahang

KUALA TERENGGANU: Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) is planning to build two new hydroelectric dams, namely in Hulu Terengganu and Hulu Jelai in Pahang.

Its vice-president (Human Resources), Muhammad Razif Abdul Rahman, said the proposed dam in Hulu Terengganu would be built in Sungai Tembat and Sungai Puah with a 250megawatt (MW) capacity, while the one in Hulu Jelai would be built with a capacity of 372 MW.

While saying that it was too early to announce the estimated cost and width of the dams, Muhammad Razif, however, said that the projects would begin soon.

"Both dams will be built simultaneously and are expected to be ready by 2014," he told reporters at the Terengganulevel TNB Aidilfitri celebration, here Sunday.

He said, once completed, the dam in Hulu Terengganu would be the third in the state, after that of the Sultan Ismail Power Station in Paka and the Sultan Mahmud Power Station in Tasik Kenyir.

"The demand for power supply is not so high in Terengganu, probably just around 300 MW. We already have a power station in Paka, which has the capacity to generate 1,200 MW electricity, and another one in Tasik Kenyir with a capacity of 400 MW.

"We are connecting the two power stations to the national grid to ensure continuous supply of electricity nationwide," he said.

Muhammad Razif said the TNB had received the approval from the Terengganu Forestry Department to start the forest clearing work.

He also reiterated that the construction of the dams was vital to achieve the government's aspiration to diversify the sources of energy in the country. - Bernama

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Coming Soon - New Kedah State Park?

Oct 10, 2009
Nature society lauds Kedah’s move to gazette forest

The Kedah branch of Malaysian Nature Society welcomes the decision by the state government to gazette the Ulu Muda forest reserve area and set up a park there.

Its secretary Phang Fatt Khow said the association had always wanted the state to protect the area.

“We applaud the state government for making such a bold decision because we have asked the state many times to protect the Ulu Muda area,” he said.

Phang said this when commenting on Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak’s announcement that the state would set up three state parks, covering 64,995ha of land.

Azizan said the parks were in Ulu Muda (27,196ha), Bujang Valley (11,636ha) and Langkawi (26,163ha).

He was quoted as saying that the park in Ulu Muda would include the Pedu, Muda and Ahning Dams while the Bujang Valley park would include the Merbok River and Gunung Jerai.

He added that the park in Langkawi would encompass Pulau Tuba and part of the Langkawi main island.

Phang said the association had been fighting for the Ulu Muda area to be protected because it was the last remaining sanctuary for animals such as elephants, tapirs, Sumatran rhinoceros, sun bears and the seladang.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Thumb Up for Selangor

Logging activities to be stopped
Oct 9, 2009

THE Selangor state government will no longer issue permits for logging on government land starting Jan 1 next year.

The blanket ruling will cover all logging activities for the inland and the mangrove forests in the state.

A source had informed The Star that the state government, in its exco meeting on July 22, had decided to stop all logging for the inland forest with immediate effect, while the ruling on the mangrove forest would be enforced on Jan 1.

It means all inland forest logging activities has stopped about two months ago while logging concessionaires holding the licence to log mangrove forest along the state’s coastal area could only do so until the end of the year.

Their licences will not be renewed upon its expiration on Dec 31.

The rule, however, does not cover the clearing of privately-owned land.

Selangor Forestry Department director Dr Yunus Zakaria said the department had not issued any new licence for logging concession this year.

He said any logging being carried out were done using the licence issued since 2006. It allows them to log until the licence expires.

He added that those concessionaires who were given the licence to log (from the previous government) were still allowed to continue until their concession expires or until their logging in the area was completed.

Asked whether they could apply to renew the licence next year, Dr Yunus said they could submit their application to them and they would forward it to the state government for approval.

“We have informed them about the expiry date of their licences,” he said.

The National Forest Council had set a quota of 1970ha of forest that could be logged for timber in Selangor.

The figure is the maximum area that could be harvested for timber every year.

However, Dr Yunus said the actual logging allowed through the licence approval was less than that of the quota by the National Forest Council.

When asked about the logging this year, he said it was much less and not even a quarter of the quoted figure allowed for harvesting.

“There are seven logging concessions for mangrove forests in Selangor,” said Dr Yunus.

“But only five of them are carrying out logging activities and sharing an area of 800ha in Pulau Ketam,” he said.

Article 74(2) of the Federal Constitution provides that land and natural resources are matters under the jurisdiction of the state governments.

It states that the state is empowered to enact laws and policies on forestry independently and a State Forestry Director is appointed to manage the administration and regulation of forest harvesting; revenue collection which includes premiums, royalties, deposits, cess and other charges, the management and development of forest resources as well as planning and coordination of the development of forest-based industry.

The states, through their respective Forestry Department, constitute permanent reserved forests and classify them for timber production and protection such as water catchment areas, wildlife reserves and bird sanctuaries, virgin jungle reserves, state parks and amenity forests.

All forest produce from these permanent reserved forests or state land remain the property of the state and all exploitation of forest produce must be licensed and administered by the state.

The state forestry directors have the power to arrest, search, seize and investigate forest-related offences, and impose fines and prosecute offenders.

In accordance with the requirement of National Forestry Act 1984, the State Forestry Departments are expected to submit annual reports to both the state authority as well as the Forestry Department of Peninsular Malaysia.

Malaysia’s forest policy has always emphasised the balance between protection and production. Regulations are in place with regard to forest management operations, which specify in detail harvesting guidelines, codes of best practices, forest inventory and construction of forest roads.

All harvesting and related operations are carried out by licensed contractors.

These licences stipulate intensity of extraction, harvesting sequence, tree size limitations, transport routes and standard of road.

Harvesting timber, for both inland and mangrove forest, is allowed in the country, with the logging licence issued by the relevant state Forestry Departments.

The licence for harvesting the trees is granted to the concessionaires under the selective management systems to ensure the sustainability of the forest.

It advocates the selection of a cutting regime based on diameter limits and species composition of the standing trees. It means the logging is permitted to zones that have met the maturity criteria of the trees.

Meanwhile, the chopping of mangrove trees in Selangor is only allowed on those that have reached a minimum of 30cm in diameter.

With the average growth of about 0.6 to 0.8cm per annum, it will need about 10 years for mangrove trees to reach the minimum diameter before they can be harvested.

According to the Malaysian Nature Society, only 1.8% of Malaysia’s land is covered in mangroves, with over 50% of these mangroves lost between 1950 and 1985.

Forestry Department statistics show that Peninsular Malaysia had 85,000ha of mangrove forest in 2003, down from 86,497ha in 2002.

The Selangor Forestry Department statistics show that in 2008, a total of 18,088ha of the coastal area in the state is covered with mangrove forest.

Those who are felling the trees that are smaller would be fined if they are caught.

Contractors who cut immature tree can be fined a maximum of RM50,000. At the same time, those who are carrying out illegal logging in the state have to pay a heavier fines.

Under Section 15 of the National Forestry Act, 1984 (Amendment 1993) those illegal loggers can be fined up to a maximum of RM500,000 and mandatory imprisonment of one year minimum and a maximum of 20 years.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

We are damned!

03 Oct 2009
By Hakim Joe

Why would someone harness the power of moving liquid and transform it into a clean and usable energy? The answer is of course for the electricity that is utilized to operate the multitude of electrical and electronic devices that we have. Simple answer.

Now comes the harder question. Why would someone want to generate electricity through a giant hydroelectric plant in an area that does not demand that massive supply? Answer me that question and you can stop reading. (Admin answer: CORRUPTION!)

The Bakun Hydroelectric Plant (BHP) is located on the wrong side of the divide. The requirement for more energy emanates from the power-hungry residents of West Malaysia where flashing neon lights and air-conditioned shopping centres swallow them up by the megawatts, and not the East Malaysians where everything is rather subdued. How much electricity does one require to light up a longhouse anyway? (That was meant to be a joke…continue to vote BN and they will make certain that you people remain in longhouses watching Charlie Chaplin reruns on black and white television sets without a remote control in a congested room full of houseflies.)

Seriously though, even the West Malaysians have more than sufficient electrical energy to run all their electrical components simultaneously without having to rely on those generated by the BHP. In fact, we are drowned in it up to our nostrils that Tenaga Nasional had to payoff the Independent Power Producers (IPP) to stop their respective plants generating more electricity into the national power grid. So, why the urgent need for a hydroelectric plant capable of generating another 500 megawatts of electricity (originally 2,400MW), a plant so massive that it is only eclipsed by China’s Three Gorges Dam in Asia?

Even the original plan of rerouting the excess electricity back west through undersea cables was flawed. Yes, hydroelectric generated power is far cheaper and cleaner than the coal-fired or diesel-fired plants but when has the Malaysian government ever cared about the pollution levels in the country? (Even Petronas sells their cleaner and more expensive petroleum overseas and imports the cheaper high sulphur petroleum for use locally and the introduction of the environmental less-unfriendly RON95 was only done this year.) About the only time when they start caring is when their drivers and bodyguards find it hard to look past the windshield of their limousines.

Okay, so the West Malaysians do not require this clean energy here but what about the East Malaysians? Do they not deserve clean fresh air with their electricity? Well, of course they do but someone’s got to pollute the environment there and all the smokers and recalcitrant backyard dry leaves and rubbish burners are just not up to it, hence the intervention of the government.

To make up for cleaning the air through the production of clean hydroelectric energy (instead of coal-fired), Putrajaya in partnership with the Sarawak State Government has plans on the pipeline to retain the environmental status quo by developing a humungous pollution and toxic fumes (hydrogen fluoride, sulphur dioxide, tetrafluoromethane, hexafluoroethane, nitrogen dioxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and particulate matter PM-10 and PM-2.5) generating, electricity devouring aluminium smelter within its borders, a really gigantic one judging by its proposed production capacity of a maximum of 1.5 million tons a year.

Ha! Ha! You guys over there really thought that you are going to enjoy a breath of clean air, eh? Well, think again!

Oh, by the way, the largest existing aluminium smelter being built in the world is the Emirates Aluminium (Emal) plant in Abu Dhabi, capable of producing 1.4 million tons a year when it becomes operational after 2010. When the Malaysian plant becomes operational, it will be the largest in the world – Malaysia Boleh! (A Heads of Agreement has been signed between Rio Tinto and Cahaya Mata Sarawak Berhad in 2007.) More on CMS later.

Before we start with the serious stuff, let us look at the damned dam. If anyone reading this article thinks that a dam lasts almost forever, think again. Hydroelectric plants are not considered a renewable plant where constant maintenance will keep it going perpetually. (The engineers might think that their magical skills are all that is required to keep the dam going on indefinitely but this is a hypothetical scenario as the oldest serving dam is only 110 years old.)

The water might still flow but the dam cannot be salvaged after its expected lifespan and require decommissioning. Similar to our Buatan Malaysia products, they tend to be problematic right past their expiry date. Concrete under constant pressure fails after a fixed period of time. Nothing lasts forever and even God does not build things to last forever.

The International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD) predicts a lifespan of 100 years (under present engineering designs) for those that are not maintained at all and double that for those that are well-maintained. It goes without saying that these predictions are made with the clause that the dams exist in a perfect environment. The ICOLD tracks all large dams (over 100-meters tall) in the world and at least 300 have experienced accidents. These were not all catastrophic failures, but if you are an engineer in charge of building an enormous dam, you definitely want to give some thought to what can go wrong. Remember Murphy’s Law.

Even the World Bank is sceptical of such mega load-bearing structures that they had stopped financing it completely. Additionally, if you are a resident living downhill where the dam is situated, you must seriously want to consider the calibre of Mara graduates. (That was another joke! To all Mara graduates, “stay cool lah!”)

Maintaining a dam is not easy either. With such a massive structure and its corresponding parts, a lot of predetermined inspection periods must be conducted properly and diligently. The powerhouse equipment can and will suffer a breakdown, the spillways will erode, the steel pipes might crack, the valves will fail, the retaining concrete wall might also suffer a crack at the bottom, the water will silt up, the sluice gates might get jammed, and a hell of a lot of other things can happen like someone might do a 911 with a hijacked plane or Thor might have forgotten to wear his bifocals and accidentally strikes it repeatedly (with lightning). Additionally, did you know that the construction of a large dam can artificially cause earthquakes to happen in areas previously thought to be seismically inactive? (28 earthquakes were registered in Sabah and Sarawak in the period between 1965 and 1994, the highest being a 5.8 tremor in 1976.)

The most powerful artificially induced earthquake caused by the construction of a huge dam (over 100-meters in height) is thought to be the 6.5 tremor that had it epicentre directly under the 103-meter Koyna Dam reservoir in Maharashtra, Western India in 1967 which flattened the village of Koynanagar causing 180 deaths. There have been 24 dams which have induced earthquakes of magnitude 4.4 and above (in recorded history) and in 17 cases, the tremors occurred within three years of initial Impoundment of the water. The Bakun Dam is 205 meters high, over twice the 100-metre height regarded by dam experts as likely to trigger off seismic activities.

The two worst accidents happened in 1963 and 1975 in Italy and China respectively. A huge rock fall into the Vajont Dam reservoir in Italy sent an enormous splash of water over the top causing a tsunami more than 80 stories high, sweeping downstream and wiping out several villages causing the deaths of almost 2,000 people. Massive rainfalls (record 41.7 inch within 24 hours) caused the failure of the Banqiao Dam in China where millions were left homeless and a victim count exceeding 200,000. Altogether this 1-in-2,000 year chance flood caused 62 dams to fail in a domino effect where the accumulated water from one uphill dam crashes into the following dam and the accumulated water from both dams crashes into the third dam and so forth. Nothing to do with a lack of maintenance and the Banqiao Dam was designed to handle an additional 12 inch of rainfall a day (which was already an overkill) but the sedimentation caused by the rainfall choked the spillways. Overall, 15.738 billion tons of water was released triggering a 10km wide wave only 7 meters high rushing downhill at a speed of approximately 50km per hour and wiping out an area 55 kilometers long, 15 kilometers wide, and created temporary lakes as large as 12,000 square kilometers. BTW, the 1-in-2000 year deluge was caused by Super Typhoon Nina (T7503), the second deadliest tropical Pacific typhoon in history with winds up to 250km/h at its peak.

Okay, enough of the horror stories let us now look at the initial profits before construction starts. What? Oh yes, this is one of those rare construction projects that earns money from the onset. To facilitate the site being ready, the area surrounding the construction site must initially be cleared and that means timber. In fact, access roads leading to the site must be built and that means more timber as the BHP is located inside the virgin rainforest of Sarawak’s interior. Let us do a wee bit of math here – the shortest route between two points is a straight line but why settle for clearing only the trees that is in the way between these two points when one is able to maximise profits if the route takes us past the densest rainforest in the region? So, instead of clearing the forest between Point A and Point B, we can reroute it from Point A to Point C onwards to Point D and then to Point E before we make a sweeping curve back to Point B. The overall yield is estimated to be in the region of 12 million cubic meters of timber from the deforestation of 56,000 hectares of virgin rainforest. The harvest is estimated to be able to fetch RM1.2 billion in total (1995 estimates) of which a quarter was harvested.

Enough said. Let us look at the history of the BHP. Initially conceived in the early 60’s, it finally got the go-ahead in 1986 when TDM gave it the thumbs up (as opposed to the thumbs down given to Mohd Isa in the Bagan Pinang by-election) and preliminary studies were conducted to assess the feasibility of constructing a 205-meter high dam capable of producing 2,400MW of hydroelectric juice annually. This was at a time when Malaysia was slowly recovering from the 1985 recession and by 1990, the boasts of having the largest hydroelectric dam in Asia (China’s 3 Gorges Dam was not conceived yet) came back to haunt the Malaysian government as they were forced to shelf it due to the low demand for electricity and high cost of building it. Strike One.

As a stubborn man who can never accept no for an answer, TDM revived the US$5.2 billion “deal of the century” project again in September 1993 and awarded it to Ekran Berhad (without a public tender exercise) in 1994. (Ekran’s CEO’s wife is the now infamous “I don’t know what is projected cashflow” former PKA General Manager and PKFZ MD Datin O.C. Phang.) One of the major shareholders of Ekran is Rasip Harun. Who is he? Rasip is the business partner of Tun Daim Zainuddin (who happens to be the Finance Minister at that time). Coincidence? Rasip is also the partner of Robert Tan Hua Choon (another one of Daim’s business partners) who controlled Jasa Kita Sdn Bhd, a company involved in the Maika Telekoms share diversion. Remember Samy’s proxy company Clearway Sdn Bhd? Robert Tan’s driver (Baharuddin M. Arip) happened to be a director of that company. Rich driver indeed! (Probably comes to work in a Lamborghini.)

How did a Chinaman from Sarawak lay his hands on “the deal of the century”? TDM is after all no Cina Apek lover and his continuation of support for the NEP only serves to reinforce his ambition to see his cronies get enriched in government projects, and there are certainly more than enough of these people to serve his needs. Okay, one good deed deserves another and TDM is merely reciprocating a “debt of honour”.

The story goes like this. Ting Pek Khiing was a two-bit small time construction subcontractor picking up low-margin construction jobs in Sarawak but he had a reputation as the “Speed Demon” where no jobs are too complicated or too short a period to complete. His “never say die until you meet the God of Hades” attitude soon caught the eye of Emperor Abdul Taib Mahmud, and they soon found each others’ company “enriching”. Being a crafty Chinaman, he soon latched on to the Emperor’s two princes (Mahmud Abu Bekir and Sulaiman Abdul Rahman) and they formed a company seeking timber concessions from the Sarawak government. To Ting, it seemed like all his Christmas(es) have arrived together. On the other side of the horizon, TDM found himself in a pickle after sending out gilded invitations to the high and mighty of the international aerospace industry to kick off his inaugural international air show on Langkawi Island. No, there is nothing wrong with the air show except that the construction of the new convention resort is ambling along at such a pace that the invited guests might start fighting for the park benches after their arrival. The ever so helpful Taib knew of this and recommended Ting to TDM. Now, TDM does not suffer fools gladly and Ting’s “can do” motto was soon put to the test. Ting went on to slap together the remainder of the resort in a record breaking three months, saving TDM the embarrassment of ever having his invited guests sleep in the open, and earned himself the nickname of Ting Pek “Speed” Khiing. A star is born (no, not Barbara Streisand).

Ting, whose total knowledge about building a dam can probably fit on a single line on an A4 paper, hired Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) of Zurich and Companhia Brasileira de Projetos e Obras (CBPO) of Brazil as the contractors and formed a construction consortium consisting of Ekran Berhad, Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB), the government of Sarawak, Sarawak Electricity Supply Corporation (Sesco), and Malaysia Mining Corporation Bhd (MMC) – Syed Mokhtar was bound to have some kind of involvement in TDM’s projects.

So, how does one go about building a dam? Well, first you need to clear the land, and I mean “clear the bloody land” and that includes any indigenous people living there. Wildlife? Get rid of them all. Foliage and vegetation? Clear them out. Man-made structures? Flatten them. Timber? Keep and sell them.

Negotiations soon started between the indigenous people and state government. The almost 9,000 natives will be relocated to Sungai Asap under the Asap Resettlement Scheme (Operation Exodus) and each family be given 3 hectares of land gratis. This is of course pending on the outcome of the EIA report. (The natives eventually received 3 acres each, not 3 hectares as promised – suckers!)

Financing of this massive project was shady, to say the least. Investment capital was announced as a matter of fact stating only that the Sarawak government together with Ekran will provide 51% of the financing and the remaining 49% will be harvested from money-growing-trees. Okay, fair enough but how will abang-adik provide for the 51% which amounted to RM7.65 billion? Initially, Ekran launched a rights issue to finance the building of the dam, but it was pitifully undersubscribed (Ting had to eventually payout RM500 million). Well, EPF allegedly chipped in RM3 billion, the Pension Trust Fund for Bakun contributed RM400 million, and Hicom and TNB made up the rest. More of it later on.

Let us look at the two main contractors. First, ABB. Not a very good sign already. This is the same company under the same management that sold seven gas turbines valued at $500 million for $1 billion each to TNB. (Wonder where the excess money went to.) Then there is CBFO, the company that built both the Itaipu and Xingu dams in Brazil. Both went over budget by 488% and 100% respectively. Great, eh? And then there is the preliminary work performed by South Korea's Dong-Ah Construction and Industrial Co, the same company that built the Songsu Bridge over the Han River in central Seoul which collapsed killing 32 people in 1994. Getting better, right? Fortunately the 1997 Asian economic crisis brought things to a screeching halt after construction started in 1996. Strike Two.

Due payments were then made to Dong-Ah (RM400 million) for completing the river diversion tunnels, Global Upline (RM60 million) for completing the auxiliary coffer dams and an undisclosed sum (rumoured to be in the region of RM1.8 billion) to Ekran as compensation for kicking them out. The government had also turned over a sum of RM1 billion to the Bakun Dam Consortium for the purchase of 8 hydropower turbines (the contract eventually went to IMPSA of Argentina and Alstom of France). BTW, Global Upline belongs to Ting as well.

IMPSA managing director Juan Aguero later revealed that they had secured the contract to design, manufacture, assemble and commission 4 of the 8 turbines at the Bakun project for RM300 million. The math doesn’t work out correctly, agree? If 4 turbines cost a total of RM300 million, 8 turbines should cost twice that amount, i.e. RM300 million times 2 equals RM600 million. So, where is the other RM400 million? Maybe the dog ate it or is this a case of what we call “escalating inflation”?

In 2000, plans were renewed to revive the project. Sarawak Hidro, a 100% government-owned company was established to take control of the construction of the Bakun Dam. The initial plans to transmit the additional electricity back to West Malaysia was now abandoned as the cabling project cost more than the remaining construction of the dam.

In 2002, the new main contractor was named. The Malaysia-China Hydro JV (MCH), a 70:30 consortium led by Sime Engineering Berhad of Malaysia (a subsidiary of Sime Darby) and Sino-Hydro Corporation of China. Other members of the consortium are WCT Berhad, MTD Capital, Ahmad Zaki Resources, Syarikat Ismail and Edward & Sons. Dato' Mohamad Shukri Baharom is the Chairman of this company and also the executive VP of Sime Darby Group's Energy & Utilities Division. The new completion date was summarily revised to February 2008.

Two years later, the engineering consulting firm JR Knowles of the UK (no relation to the sexy “PAS kata haram” BeyoncĂ© Knowles) was hired to study the delays in the construction of the dam. The spanking newly revised and freshly amended completion date is now sometime in 2010 (probably February the 30th.) Also in 2004, Global Upline (owned by Ting) was allegedly awarded the contract to clear the biomass in the flood basin. One company (under the name of Pacific Chemicals and also owned by Ting) had already “cleared” a quarter of it (in 1995) and another was “just coming back to finish off the job” in an alternative form.

Let us leave the construction side of things and access the feasibility of using the excess energy being churned by the 8 turbines. Here is where the aluminium smelter comes in. Forget about the non-income generating toxic gases for awhile and concentrate on the electrical usage. This mega smelter requires 50% of the total electricity produced by the Bakun Dam and that means a huge and constant income for Sesco (1,200MW at a selling price of RM0.286 per unit equals RM343.2 million a year. The current IPP selling price to TNB is RM0.017 per unit. The total margin would be RM322.8 million a year.). Additionally, it will provide an extra 4,700 jobs. Wow! We can even construct huge fans in arrays and blow it in the direction of Indonesia if they do not control their annual forest fires! Double Wow!

As mentioned above, the two suspects in this joint venture are Rio Tinto (largest aluminium manufacturer in the world) and CMS. Never heard of Cahaya Mata Sarawak Berhad before? Well, it was called Cement Manufacturers Sarawak Berhad when it started business in 1974 producing Portland cement as a state-owned firm. It was in the 90’s that it was privatised from a state-owned public-listed company into a private sector public-listed conglomerate. Why would someone takeover such a dull company? Let’s look at what CMS owned before they were privatised - PPES Quarry, Steel Industries Sarawak and PCMS, all profitable companies. After the takeover, CMS continued consolidating their company by purchasing Syrakusa Sdn Bhd and Concordance Sdn Bhd, via cash and share swaps. In a reverse takeover, the owners of these two companies acquired CMS and began injecting their other assets into it including Bank Utama, Sarawak Securities and Archipelago Shipping. CMS is now a diversified conglomerate involved in stock brokering, road construction, water filtration and treatment, quarry operations, civil and structural engineering, steel bar manufacturing, trading of construction materials, cement production, technology, education, financial services and investment holdings. No prizes for guessing who owns CMS – the Mahmud family. Oh, by the way, Taib Mahmud’s spouse Laila and his children are the majority shareholders of Sitehost Plc, Australia, which owns the 380-room Adelaide Hilton Hotel. Company records dated December 2000 show them holding 95 percent of the company or 9.5 million (Aussie dollars) fully paid up shares. One question: How much does a hotel cost anyway? Another family member (Taib’s brother Onn Mahmud) along with his daughter and son in law owns SAKTO Corporation, a major real estate operator of non-residential buildings in Ottawa, owning and managing more than half a million square feet of prime office space with affiliate offices in the US, UK, Asia and Australia. They also own SAKTO Development Corporation, a multi-million dollar development and construction company in Ottawa.

Back to the construction site. In 2007, the government once again revived the cabling project. The new estimates (from TNB) are approximately RM9 billion. Others put it as high as RM20 billion, depending on the number of cables involved. These include the Bakun to Bintulu HVAC double circuit overhead lines for a distance of 160 km, Bakun to Tanjung Parih HVDC overhead line for a distance of 670 km, Tanjung Parih to Tanjung Tenggara submarine cable for a distance of 670 km and the Tanjung Tenggara to Kuantan landline to connect to the national grid. The government in fact invited Sumitomo Corp of Japan to do a feasibility study report and assist in the laying of the submarine cable. The longest existing submarine cable is the 580km NorNed undersea connection linking Norway and the Netherlands.

The once revised 500MW capacity is once again back to the original figure of 2,4000MW with 1,600MW being rerouted back west and the completion date has been pushed further back by another year. This is done with the assumption that Rio Tinto would back out of the aluminium smelter deal. However plans are being drawn to construct yet another dam (the 1,000MW Murum Dam in the Upper Rejang Basin of central Sarawak) and concept studies are being prepared for the construction of an enormous 20,000MW hydroelectric dam along the Rejang River rivalling China’s 22,500MW Three Gorges Dam.

In 2008, Sime Darby announced that the company will not be taking up the offer of an equity stake in the Bakun project. This prompted the government to search for another shareholder and at the beginning of this year, TNB and Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) were granted permission by the federal government to form a special purpose vehicle to jointly takeover the entire project from Sarawak Hidro through a leasing agreement. Additionally, the Xinhua News Agency published a report on its website revealing that four Chinese state-owned enterprises, including China Sinohydro Corp, had been "downgraded" because of "safety or environmental pollution accidents". Sinohydro is one of seven firms in the Malaysia-China Hydro Joint Venture consortium working on the Bakun Dam.

The proposed public tender for the undersea cable laying process is expected to be held next year. The manufacture of these RM4 billion cables was promised to FCW Holdings way back at the onset of the project by TDM but anything could happen now that the government is under a new administration. (FCW Holdings is owned by Ting and allegedly also by one of TDM’s son.)

One last thing, the planning of the dam was conducted with no public accessibility to vital feasibility studies, no process of public feedback on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process and limited consultation procedures with the indigenous peoples. Feasibility studies and reports commissioned by the government on the Bakun project have been classified under the Official Secrets Act (OSA), meaning it is a criminal offense for anyone to see or use their information. Not all of the appendices, interim and final reports of the EIAs have been made accessible to the general public. Project proponents have refused to meet critics in any open discussion.

Cost overruns? Maybe, but one won’t get to hear about it as this information is classified (unless MT gets their hands on it). Let’s just put it this way – if a RM1.8 billion project situated in nearby Klang can balloon to a staggering RM12.5 billion, what are the chances that a US$5.2 billion (approximately RM26.3 billion) project situated in the middle of the forest in Sarawak, coming in on budget?

Jinxed dam? Perhaps, but one thing is certain – we (the taxpayers) are damned.
Malaysia Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) has been going cuckoo.
Ranking for Malaysia has been sliding down.....
2001 - 36
2002 - 33
2003 - 37
2004 - 39
2005 - 39
2006 - 44
2007 - 43
2008 - 47