Mega-Dam Projects Will Force Tens of Thousands of People From Their Land
On a 20-minute walk through the rainforest of Borneo, you will encounter more tree species than exist on the entire North American continent. The distinctive biodiversity of the area attracts tourists and researchers from all over the world, in spite of the intense destruction of the rainforest from logging and palm oil plantations in the past few decades. Now, there’s a new threat to the people and the wildlife of Borneo: mega-dams.
In the Malaysian state of Sarawak in the north of the island, mega-hydro projects are driven by the state government through the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy, or SCORE. If built, these dams will force tens of thousands of people from their land, drive untold species to extinction, pollute the rivers—the lifelines of the jungle—and produce more greenhouse gas emissions per megawatt of energy than a coal-fired power plant.
The government of Sarawak has already built two dams in the proposed SCORE portfolio, but local resistance has stalled progress on the next dams scheduled to flood the forest. Since October 2013, indigenous communities in Malaysian Borneo have prevented construction of the Baram mega-dam, which would forcefully displace thousands of families. As part of the campaign to stop the Sarawak dams, The Borneo Project, a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization, has released Commerce or Corruption?, the second film in a series of short documentaries exposing the realities of proposed mega-dam construction in Sarawak. The film release coincides with the 555th day of the Baram Dam blockades.
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? exposes the government’s true motivation behind the dams: personal financial gain. Private companies involved in construction and transmission stand to make gigantic profits from building the dams. Many of these companies are controlled by relatives and friends of the governor of the state, Taib Mahmud. Mahmud has been in power since the 1970s. Doling out the contracts would add even more gold to the already over-flowing coffers of politicians and their well-connected family members.
The lack of transparency behind the financing and the plans for how to use the energy is also cause for concern. The Sarawak mega-dams assume an outrageous energy demand growth rate, but the state currently produces significantly more energy than it can use, and proponents have no concrete plans for how to use or sell the energy.
The indigenous communities protesting the dams are fighting for their livelihoods. Completed in 2011, the Bakun dam created a reservoir the size of Singapore, and cost the government $5 billion, over five times the original $8 million estimate. To make way for the reservoir, around 10,000 indigenous people were resettled in the town of Asap. After more than a decade in their new location, the communities are still struggling to eke out a living. They no longer have access to the hunting and fishing grounds of their former villages. The government promised 10 acres of farmland per family, but reduced it to three. Three acres is not enough to sustain a living, and much of the land is rocky, sloped, sandy and located several hours away from the town. To make matters worse, many families are in debt because the government made them pay for their own housing.
The good news is that community resistance is proving to have a significant effect on developments. If completed, the Baram Dam will inundate 26 villages and displace between 6,000 and 20,000 people. The ongoing Baram Dam blockades—community-led nonviolent direct actions—involve men, women and children and have successfully prevented loggers and the dam developer, Sarawak Energy Bhd, from accessing the construction area for 555 days. The blockade is maintained by indigenous Kenyah, Kayan and Penan people and demonstrates the tremendous local resistance to dam development and logging.
Broken Promises, the next film in The Borneo Project film series, will be released in July. It will highlight the devastating impacts of forced relocation on indigenous communities. All of the films will be available on The Borneo Project website.
Watch the 10-minute short film, Commerce or Corruption?, here:
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
- Israeli Oil Spill Is a 'Severe Ecological Disaster' - EcoWatch ›
- Endangered Sea Turtles Recovering After 'Cold Stunning' Event ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
As the weather grows more severe, and its damages more expensive and fatal, current weather predictions fall short in providing reliable information on Earth's rapidly changing systems.
- Are New Extreme Global Warming Projections Correct? - EcoWatch ›
- Are We Really Past the Point of No Return on Climate? Scientists ... ›
By Brett Wilkins
Accusing California regulators of "reckless disregard" for public "health and safety," the environmental advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity on Wednesday sued the administration of Gov. Gavin Newsom for approving thousands of oil and gas drilling and fracking projects without the required environmental review.
- New Bill Seeks to Ban Fracking in California - EcoWatch ›
- Fracking Likely Triggered Earthquakes in California a Few Miles ... ›
- California Won't Buy From Automakers 'on the Wrong Side of History ... ›
- Chevron Has Spilled 800,000 Gallons of Crude Oil and Water Into a ... ›
By Kate Whiting
From Greta Thunberg to Sir David Attenborough, the headline-grabbing climate change activists and environmentalists of today are predominantly white. But like many areas of society, those whose voices are heard most often are not necessarily representative of the whole.
1. Wangari Maathai<p>In 2004, Professor Maathai made history as the <a href="https://www.nobelpeaceprize.org/Prize-winners/Prizewinner-documentation/Wangari-Maathai" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize</a> for her dedication to sustainable development, democracy and peace. She started the <a href="http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Green Belt Movement</a>, a community-based tree planting initiative that aims to reduce poverty and encourage conservation, in 1977. More than 51 million trees have been planted helping build climate resilience and empower communities, especially women and girls. Her environmental work is celebrated every year on <a href="http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/node/955" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Wangari Maathai Day on 3 March</a>.</p>
2. Robert Bullard<p>Known as the 'father of environmental justice,' Dr Bullard has <a href="https://www.unep.org/championsofearth/laureates/2020/robert-bullard" target="_blank">campaigned against harmful waste</a> being dumped in predominantly Black neighborhoods in the southern states of the U.S. since the 1970s. His first book, Dumping in Dixie, highlighted the link between systemic racism and environmental oppression, showing how the descendants of slaves were exposed to higher-than-average levels of pollutants. In 1994, his work led to the signing of the <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/experts/albert-huang/20th-anniversary-president-clintons-executive-order-12898-environmental-justice" target="_blank">Executive Order on Environmental Justice</a>, which the <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/27/executive-order-on-tackling-the-climate-crisis-at-home-and-abroad/" target="_blank">Biden administration is building on</a>.<br></p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7983f54726debdd824f97f9ad3bdbb87"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/T_VjSGk8s18?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Pollution has a race problem. Elizabethwarren.com
3. John Francis<p>Helping the clean-up operation after an oil spill in San Francisco Bay in January 1971 inspired Francis to <a href="https://planetwalk.org/about-john/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stop taking motorized transport</a>. Instead, for 22 years, he walked everywhere. He also took a vow of silence that lasted 17 years, so he could listen to others. He has walked the width of the U.S. and sailed and walked through South America, earning the nickname "Planetwalker," and raising awareness of how interconnected people are with the environment.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="09b968e0e9964e31406954dcea45981d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/vgQjL23_FoU?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
4. Dr. Warren Washington<p>A meteorology and climate pioneer, Dr. Washington was one of the first people to develop atmospheric computer models in the 1960s, which have helped scientists understand climate change. These models now also incorporate the oceans and sea ice, surface water and vegetation. In 2007, the <a href="https://www.cgd.ucar.edu/pcm/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Parallel Climate Model (PCM)</a> and <a href="https://www.cesm.ucar.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Community Earth System Model (CESM)</a>, earned Dr. Washington and his colleagues the <a href="https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/2007/summary/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Nobel Peace Prize</a>, as part of the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change</a>.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="09fbf6dc37f275f438a0d53ec0fe1874"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bvJ4jTy2mTk?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
5. Angelou Ezeilo<p>Huge trees and hikes to pick berries during her childhood in upstate New York inspired Ezeilo to become an environmentalist and set up the <a href="https://gyfoundation.org/staff/Angelou-Ezeilo" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Greening Youth Foundation</a>, to educate future generations about the importance of preservation. Through its schools program and Youth Conservation Corps, the social enterprise provides access to nature to disadvantaged children and young people in the U.S. and West Africa. In 2019, Ezeilo published her book <em>Engage, Connect, Protect: Empowering Diverse Youth as Environmental Leaders</em>, co-written by her Pulitzer Prize-winning brother Nick Chiles.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ce4547d4e5c0b9ad2927f19fd75bf4ab"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/YojKMfUvJMs?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
- Youth Climate Activists Want a Role in Biden's White House ... ›
- As Protests Rage, Climate Activists Embrace Racial Justice ... ›
- The Power of Inclusive, Intergenerational Climate Activism - EcoWatch ›