Thursday, October 14, 2010

Blog Action Day/Save our world: Water

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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.

uld accomo

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:


Elaine Yim said...

It does look like the river is bleeding.

Pete said...

A sad day for the environment!

Ginny Hartzler said...

I am so sorry this is happening. If enough people sign, will they listen, or is it too late to stop this? They built a dam right in back of our house, although our river out back is very small and doesn't carry big ships.

Tammie Lee said...

my goodness, the life of a river, one never knows what will happen. But we do know that water can be gentle, it can be powerful. It is essential to our existence, too much can kill us. It is a part of life that requires honor and care. How wonderful that you participated in this event.

Unknown said...

Great post Ann! you know there was an article that Malaysia waste the most water..such a shame.

Dave said...

I understand how sad you must feel Ann to see this happening in your homeland - Dave

Gallivanter said...


Francisca said...

It is a big shame that man keeps making the same mistakes over and over and over. Millions of people have been displaced in the name of modernization. It must be especially painful when you see it happen to your country of origin.

Anonymous said...

I think it was cleared by the next day because the tides brought it down stream.

About the fish dying, I don't know if there were many fish left in the 1st place. The fishermen have been blowing up the river with dynamite in order to easily harvest the fish. That's what I heard a year ago about Kapit and their freshest fish. In the past, all Kapit people would bring fish to their relatives as far as West Malaysia and Singapore.

Now, the locals in Kapit do not eat fish.

Ann, Chen Jie Xue 陈洁雪 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

The Movement For Change, Sarawak (MoCS), a Kuala Lumpur-based non-governmental organisation, wants the Sarawak Legislative Assembly to set up a special select committee to conduct a full-scale investigation into the recent ecological disaster in the Rajang River.

Making the call, MoCS leader Francis Paul Siah said the committee to probe the logjam in the country's longest river must be independent and should comprise equal representation from both sides of the political divide.

"Many people were shocked by the scale of the logjam for five days last week, which stretched for 50km on the Rajang River", he said in a statement here Wednesday.

The state government was also urged to take stern action against timber companies that "did not play by the rules" in the form of a fine or the revocation of logging licences.

Several days of heavy rain earlier in the week in Putai and Nungun in upper Baleh above Kapit had caused a massive landslide which brought along logs and debris into the river.

Anonymous said...

8 October 2010
Malaysia log-jam threatens disaster in Sarawak

Sarawak in eastern Malaysia is heavily logged

Logs and wood debris flowing down a river in Malaysia have blocked river transport and are threatening major flooding downstream.

The town of Kapit on the Rajang River in Sarawak has already been cut off, state media reported.

Heavy rains have forced millions of cut logs at a timber depot into the river.

The combination of a heavy monsoon season with extensive logging, both legal and illegal, is creating a dangerous situation, local media said.
Continue reading the main story
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A major environmental disaster was unfolding in Sarawak, which is heavily forested and logged, The Star newspaper reported.

The newspaper said heavy rains are believed to have caused a flood at a logging camp on the upper reaches of Balleh River - a tributary of the Rajang - prompting the surge of large logs into the river.

The paper quoted a local businessman as saying that the events were unprecedented.

A Sarawak blog, Hornbill Unleashed, carried pictures of the log jam and demanded action from the government for better infrastructure in the state.

"The chief minister who is in charge of issuing logging licences for the last 30 years should be held responsible," says Hornbill Unleashed in its posting.

The river is the only means of transport for communities in the area and residents further downstream are writing blog and twitter entries expressing fear at what might happen when the log train reaches them.

Kay L. Davies said...

Ann -- This is awful. I understand how you feel about the land of your birth.
I was born beside a river, the mighty Fraser River in British Columbia, Canada. I have seen dams built in my lifetime to generate power to be sent to the United States.
I have seen water from British Columbia being sold to the United States. I have seen forests in British Columbia clear-cut to provide lumber for the US and for other countries as well.
Because Canada is large in area and our population is small, people have long thought of our land and our rivers as resources to be exploited, with no thought to the future, or to the animals being killed in the process.
I don't know when power-hungry people and businesses and countries will realize how much harm they are doing to the planet, probably not in my lifetime. Perhaps, I hope, in yours.
-- Kay, Alberta

Marja said...

A very interesting post I linked to it as we all have to become aware what devastating effect this has on life.

Thomas Lee/Lee Lip Pang said...

For a state with 2.5 million plus population, an area (124,450sqkm)which is a little smaller than peninsular Malaysia(131,598sqkm,21million population)) with most of its lowland jungles cleared is a very clear rape of the environment
by greedy irresponsible leaders,
for that 40km of log jammed they should all just step down.
The country and the whole world need a fresh change.

lina@women's perspectives said...

There's flood in Jakarta and several cities in Indonesia now.
Big flood in Wasior, West Papua is like tsunami. It takes many lifes :(

Reader Wil said...

When man meddles in nature disasters are bound to follow. Everywhere in the world dams are being built and everywhere this causes problems. Look at what happened in Hongary last week.

Fernanda Ferreira - Ná said...

Dear Ann!

Thank you!!!

For all this information.
For this fabulous post.
For this crying SHOUT coming straigh from your heart.

I'll tell all my friends to pay you a visit.

Huge Hug

Ann said...

How sad to have that happening to your beautiful river.

Noel Morata said...

aloha ann,
what a tragic story so hard to see this type of harm to the local population...i'm very sorry to hear about this :(

Mylene said...

This is very sad :( but it is also man's fault why nature is now harsh to us.

Unknown said...

This is so sad! It reminds me, once again, that when commerce is put ahead of the planet, everyone suffers. With all that the world has accomplished, it is tragic that we haven't learned much!

Manhattan Air Specialists said...

There is absolutely a emerging need to protect all the natural resources including the water bodies.The industrial waste the fertilizers and also the individual dumping makes the situation worse.