The following photos were taken in 1991 when I revisited the Rejang River. The river then was reddish and murky. A far cry from the 1960s when I swam and drank from the river.
I was born in Sibu, Borneo. Sibu is along Rejang River. We have very high tropical rainfall, about 144 inches annually. We swam in the river. Every December, part of the town is flooded. Our houses are on stilts, and the water level comes up to our thighs. I learned to respect the power of the river when after the flood, I see dead cats, dogs and chicken among the flotsam. The engineers tell me that it is the silting that is causing the floods.
A dam had been built in one of the tributaries of Rejang River. The Bakum Dam has attracted international opposition.
I saw this dead tree stump in the edge of a man made lake caused by the building of a dam. When I saw this, I am reminded of a trip in 1995 to Sarawak.
. We went by long boat powered by outboard engines. We sat in the boat and I saw lots of islands with a few trees and dead trees around them. I asked my guide what they were. She said, those were not islands, they were not so long ago, hills. When they built the dam, they flooded a whole area. So what was once a hill became an island.
She added that thousands of farmers were displaced. Instead of tilling the land they had done for generations, they now had to learn a new skill of fish farming.
This worried me because Rejang River Dam was to generate electricity for West Malaysia. The dam I saw was very small, it is not hard to imagine how much harm there would be to dam up a 350 miles long river.
The Bakun Hydroelectric Dam Project aroused widespread concern among environmental and social NGOs and indigenous peoples' organizations in Sarawak, which have been opposing this megaproject considered unnecessary -since the present and future energy demand of the country are adequately covered with the electricity produced nowadays- and negative from an environmental and social point of view because one third of Sarawak's remaining primary forest lie in the area to be affected by the dam, thus forcing the migration of indigenous peoples from the catchment area. In May 1997 the Coalition of Concerned NGOs on Bakun (Gabungan) urged ABB, the main contractor involved in the project, to definitively abandon the project.
"The flooding of the dam reservoir, the size of Singapore island, is scheduled to start next month," he said.
The Bakun problem-ridden project, Malaysia's largest hydroelectric dam, is located on the Balui River in the upper Rejang River basin, some 37km upstream from Belaga.
The construction of this dam will have adverse environmental and social consequences. At least 12 protected animal species and 93 protected plants are found within the dam's flood zone and will be destroyed if the dam is built. The dam may also have a negative impact on the Rejang River - the longest in Sarawak - by lowering water levels and degrading fish habitats and fisheries downstream. Construction work has also already forced the relocation of 10,000 people from their ancestral homes to a relocation village named Asap, where they face poverty, malnutrition and unemployment.
By the time I wrote the above, the information has become obsolete. I may have left the country of my birth Sarawak for more than thirty five years, I am still a Sarawak girl at heart. Today, my heart bleeds for the river that is crying. The country’s longest river, the Rajang at 350 miles/563km long from its source, was not navigable to all boats, big or small.
The river was like a conveyor belt in a sawmill but instead of transporting uniformly cut wood, it carried an endless flow of uprooted trees, discarded logs and all manner of vegetative debris from Kapit, some 176km away. Kapit experienced an alarming situation from about 2pm last week.
On Wednesday I wrote a post,
This phenomenon was also reported in China where it said to be threatening the world biggest hydro electric dam, the Three Gorges Dam.
Read more: http://www.bintulu.org/news/2010/10/07/rejang-river-flooded-by-sea-of-dead-woods-as-bakun-impoundments-underway.php#ixzz12EGTlVtm