Al Jazeera investigation confirms power glut in Sarawak

Bakun dam engineers confirm only one of three turbines is working –Massive power excess cannot be exported as undersea cable to peninsular Malaysia failed to materialize

(DOHA, QATAR) An investigative report by the Doha-based global news broadcaster Al Jazeera broadcasted this morning confirms that the Malaysian state of Sarawak is facing a massive power glut following the completion of the Bakun dam, Asia’s largest hydropower dam outside China. Al Jazeera reporter Harry Fawcett who visited the dam site found that only one out of three turbines is working and that Sarawak engineers could not explain how the massive amount of power produced at Bakun could be used in a sensible way.

The Bakun dam’s construction started in the mid-1990s and has recently been completed. The dam has been labelled a ”monument of corruption” by Transparency International due to massive profits made by companies close to the family of Sarawak Chief Minister Abndul Taib Mahmud. While the dam has an installed capacitiy of 2,400 MW, Sarawak peak electricity demand amounts to less than 1,000 MW. According to official figures, the dam construction costed 2.4 billion US dollars, funded mainly through loans from the Malaysian citizens’ pension funds.

In a live Al Jazeera interview, Bruno Manser Fund director Lukas Straumann slammed the Sarawak authorities for causing an environmental, social and economic disaster with the Bakun and its further dam plans. “Neither the promised industrialization of Sarawak nor an undersea cable to West Malaysia have materialized. The only rationale behind the further dam plans is corruption”

Even before the completion of Bakun, secret construction works for the 900 MW Murum dam have started. The construction site of Murum, which is being built by Chinese contractors, has been completely sealed off and the funding of the dam remains a state secret. It has to be feared that the Sarawak dams will endebt the state for generations to come and that Malaysian employees will have to pay with lower rents for the lack of economic viability of the Mega-dams.

The Bruno Manser Fund calls for an immediate halt to further dam planning and construction works in Sarawak and for all official documents related to the dams to be released for public examination.

Watch the (unedited) Al Jazeera live interview with BMF director Lukas Straumann now online under: (33 MB)


We expect Al Jazeera to put its full report online by tomorrow under: