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Monday, August 04, 2008

Cancel the Kelau Dam Project and save our Natural Heritage

Dear Malaysians,

I don't know whether you have heard of this potential environmental disaster that is being planned by the Energy, Water and Communications Minister Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor and the Kumpulan Darul Ehsan, the Selangor State Government's investment company in destroying the traditional homelands of the forest dwelling Temuan Orang Asli tribes in the Lakum Forests along the Kelau River all in the name of building a humongous dam called the Kelau Dam Project?

Another case of the mega project syndrome plaguing the BN Government of Malaysia who seem to be working with the Pakatan Rakyat State Government of Selangor, all in the pretext of transferring raw water from Pahang to Selangor.

They don't give a shit about the Orang Asli's who have been living there for so many generations nor do they give a second thought about the destruction of our millions of years old precious forests reserves and the annihilation of thousands of species of the unique flora and fauna from that area!

Watch these videos and decide as to whether you wish to still remain indifferent about the future of our nation's Orang Asli's or our country's natural forest reserves?

Video in Bahasa Malaysia.

Video in English.

The Orang Asli and the Kelau Dam Project

Keywords: Indigenous peoples. Kaum Chewong, Temuan.
Peninsular Malaysia.
Locale :
Lakum forests. Kelau River. Pahang -Selangor Water Transfer.
44km tunnel through the Main Range.
JBIC-Japan loan. Shoddy EIA.
Legal objections. RM4 billion cost.
Fraudulent representation. Forced and unjustified resettlement. No free, informed consent. Deforestation. Environmental damage. Unconsidered alternatives. Unnecessary dam.«


The Kelau Dam Remains in Dispute

By Hilary Chiew
The Star
Tuesday 13 May 2008

THE status of the controversial Kelau Dam project, which involves piping water from Pahang to Selangor, remains on shaky ground. It is learnt that certain quarters in the new Selangor Government want the project reviewed in light of criticisms of a shoddy Environmental Impact Assessment process and interest in obtaining water from Perak instead of Pahang.

The Kelau Dam project was mooted in the late 1990s following a spate of water shortages in Selangor and concerns that the state will be water-deficient in the future. The RM3.8bil project would be partially funded by development aid from the Japan Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC).

The inter-state raw water transfer project includes a 30m rock-filled dam across Sungai Kelau near Bentong, a 4,090ha reservoir and a 45km tunnel through the Main Range to transfer raw water to a treatment plant in Hulu Langat in Selangor. (The cost excludes the tunnel and the treatment plant construction.) The original plan includes the damming of Sungai Telemong (south of Karak) but this has been shelved.

The meandering Sungai Kelau. A total of 4,090 hectares of agricultural and forest land is to be inundated for the controversial Kelau Dam project.

Human settlements will be relocated: the Temuan tribe at Sungai Temir near Raub, the Chewong at Bukit Cenal and Felda Kelau settlers.

A total of 4,090ha of land including the 1,549ha Lakum Forest Reserve will be inundated with the dam waters.

Critics have questioned the benefits of the project given the costs, environmental and social impacts, and the lack of a clear water conservation policy.

Although Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim has said the state would honour the water purchase agreement signed with Pahang, it has been urged to reconsider the need for the project.

Initially slated to commence in 2003, the water transfer project has met with protests from both local and international non-governmental organisations like the Centre of Orang Asli Concerns, Sahabat Alam Malaysia and Friends of the Earth-Japan.

The groups demanded for the JBIC’s environmental and social guidelines to be honoured according to its loan approval criteria.

JBIC introduced the guidelines in 1999 following complaints that its grants and loans in developing countries were causing environmental damage and social disintegration.

Due to the protests, the project period has been revised twice, first to 2005-2012 and then 2008-2015.

The loan agreement for RM2.4bil was finally signed in March 2005. Appearing to have cleared the hurdles, the Malaysian government is confident that the project would take off by next month.

Newly appointed Energy, Water and Communications Minister Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor has said that land acquisition was ongoing and tenders were being evaluated.

His predecessor Datuk Seri Lim Keng Yaik announced in January that Kumpulan Darul Ehsan Berhad, the Selangor investment arm, has been awarded the contract to build and operate the Langat II water treatment plant that will receive raw water from Pahang.

Judicial review

Opponents of the project, however, are not about to give up. Last October, 27 Orang Asli sought judicial review of the approval of the Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA).

Among others things, they challenged a claim in the report that the Orang Asli had agreed to the project and were willing to be resettled. The High Court has set July 9 to hear the case.

Kamarul Hisham Kamaruddin, counsel for the Orang Asli, says the affected communities were not consulted and were only informed in 2002, after the report was approved in 2001.

The indigenous people, particularly the Chewongs, are adamant on staying put as their village on higher ground will not be affected.

The Chewong who are among the Orang Asli in interior Pahang who will lose their home if the Kelau Dam is built, have gone to court to challenge the project.

The legal action also claimed that the EIA was shoddy in the assessment of biodiversity while alternatives to the project, like tapping into Sungai Perak and Kenyir Dam in Terengganu, were not considered.

Kamarul reckons as the purchaser of the raw water, the Selangor government has to weigh the legal impediment before going ahead with the project.

Centre for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC) has produced a 32-minute video titled Drowned Forests and Damned Lives: The Orang Asli and the Kelau Dam Project criticizing the project.

Its coordinator Dr Colin Nicholas believes the project is yet another means for certain parties to benefit from the construction contracts.

He is especially critical of JBIC's reliance on the assessment done by the Malaysian government instead of making its own independent assessment.

Nicholas, who had represented the Orang Asli in consultation chaired by the Pahang state economic development unit after the DEIA was approved, says the Chewong community maintains that they did not consent to being relocated 40km away to Sungai Bilut.

Nicholas fears the relocation exercise is to vacate the land for others.

Citing the case of the Sungai Selangor dam project in Kuala Kubu Baru, Selangor, he says the Temuan community of Kampung Pertak was moved only to have their land taken over by influential personalities to build holiday homes.*

The JBIC, however, is satisfied that its guidelines have been met.

Says its country representative Takeshi Toyoda: “We understand that the Ministry of Energy, Water and Communications has followed our guidelines fully. We heard from the ministry that the procedures are in order and we believe their decision (to go ahead with the project) is right.”

Asked about the legal redress taken by the Orang Asli, he says: “The court case is against the Malaysian government. We’re not in a position to comment.”

* Note: This is a misquote as the Peretak Temuans were never resettled as they stood their ground as their lands would not be submerged. Now they have the Sultan of Selangor as their neighbour.

(Fotos: Colin-COAC)

Too high a price

JAPAN Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) is the second largest development bank after the World Bank with annual disbursement of US$17bil (RM59.5bil). Its two main functions are to lend money for development projects to governments in developing countries and to support Japanese corporations operating in those countries.

From 1969 to 2001, Malaysia received 827.4bil yen (RM25bil) as bilateral loans. In 2004, Malaysia received US$256mil (RM972mil) worth of bilateral aid of which US$210mil (RM798mil) were given as bilateral loans and only US$1mil was bilateral grant (funds that the recipient does not have to pay back).

According to a research paper titled Japan’s Foreign Aid Policy Towards Malaysia: Case studies of the New Miyazawa Initiative and the Kelau Dam Construction, Japan provided US$426mil (RM1.6bil) in grants to Malaysia from 1995 to 2000 but the benefit is cancelled out by the loan repayment that amounted to US$810mil (RM3bil).

“This means that Japan’s net foreign aid disbursement to Malaysia was negative. In other words, the amount of money that Malaysia has to repay Japan exceeded the amount of aid it received.”

Japanese funding was instrumental in the development of recent dams in Malaysia such as Beris in Kedah and Batang Ai in Sarawak. In both cases, communities were resettled with disputed and outstanding compensation claims. Critics point out Japanese loans have high interest rates and the funding came with strings attached where use of Japanese consultants, main contractor and engineering equipments often form part of the deal.

• Source: Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies, River Watch East and Southeast Asia.

If you are as concerned as Mahaguru58 about the impending destruction of our country's natural forest heritage, do contact the Centre for Orang Asli Concerns and ask them how you can support them?

I for one really wish to ask those who are rooting for this project as to how the hell do they sleep at night knowing fully well of the disaster that their actions are gonna bring on to our nation?

Datuk Shaziman Mansor and Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim!

How do you guys do it?