Hyrdo Tasmania meets dam objectors in Sarawak
Former Senator Bob Brown and the Huon Valley Environment Centre’s Jenny Weber have returned from Sarawak in Malaysia to campaign for indigenous people who want Australian hydroelectric companies to leave Sarawak.
Sarawak’s riverside dwellers are angry that Hydro Tasmania and the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation have won huge contracts to help the construction or business extension of the dams at their expense. Thousands of people have beem displaced already. 20,000 more will be flooded out of their ancestral lands if the giant Baram River dam proposed for central Sarawak goes ahead as planned next year.
In a meeting in the Sarawak capital Kuching on Friday, Hydro Tasmania’s chair David Crean and CEO Roy Adair met a delegation of 13 indigenous people including Baram elders. The delegation told how they were ignored and cheated by Sarawak authorities. They presented HT with a letter asking it to leave Sarawak.
Dr Crean said that contention that HT would leave was not true. He gave a good hearing to the delegation as claims that dams are being built with no proper consultations and no social or environmental studies were aired. “How would you like your house to be flooded?” one Baram leader asked.
Brown, who will be at the Sydney Writers Festival today, said that the the Sarawak Chief Minister’s cousin, Hamed Sepawi, heads up both Hydro Sarawak and Ta Ann, the controversial logging company now operating in the Tasmanian forests. Chief Minister Taib is under investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission but has refused to appear before it.
Brown said that the Snowy Mountains Engineering Commission, which has some 200 personnel working in Sarawak, owed the Australian public a full account of its role in the construction of the mega-dams bringing so much misery to indigenous locals. ‘Most Australians have no idea of the impact the dams, using Australian expertise, are having on the ancient cultures and wellbeing of the people living along Sarawak’s rivers,” Brown said.