Contractors have been carrying out open burning at the site of the Bakun Dam, claims a Sarawak watchdog network.
The Sarawak Conservation Action Network (Scane), which brings together about half a dozen indigenous and environmental groups in the state, said in a statement:
The contracts for clear-cutting forest have been commissioned to some contractors since the beginning of the year. The forest area which will be cleared for the dam is 80,000 ha, that is, roughly the size of Singapore Island.
Recently the Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd managing director Zulkifle Osman announced that the impoundment of water catchments would start in October; by then the whole dam reservoir will be flooded. By July 2010, testing for electricity transmission from Bakun dam will start.
Scane wonders how the Sarawak Natural Resources and Environmental Board (NREB) is monitoring the site. My phone calls to the Board this afternoon were unanswered – as it is probably closed for the weekend.
Scane is also asking if Sarawak Hidro is following an Environmental Management Plan (EMP), if any, as stated in the Bakun EIA.
When contacted, Scane national coordinator Raymond Abin said the network had received reports of such burning from the dam site. He said the last report he received was on Wednesday.
The watchdog network was set up in April to monitor development projects in Sarawak especially their impact on the environment.
Of late, Sarawak has been hit by a dry spell as a thick haze blankets parts of the state. On 12 Aug, the NOAA reported 37 hotspots in Sarawak, with Miri recording an unhealthy level, according to Asean’s haze watch.
The Bakun Dam project is owned and developed by Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd, wholly owned by the Finance Ministry.