Boon Chye: Bakun Project a RM 7.3 billion blunder, and more to come.

(25 Jun, Ipoh) Dr Lee Boon Chye, Vice President of Parti Keadilan Rakyat expressed shock that RM 7.3 billion has been spent on the Bakun Hydroelectricity Project with no clear decision on the demand for the electricity generated.

In the answer given by the Minister of Finance to questions raised regarding the Bakun Hydroelectricity Project, the Minister of Finance in the written reply stated that the amount spent for Bakun Project was RM 7.3 billion as of May 2010. The minister stated further that the 2400 Megawatt electricity generated by the hydroelectricity when fully operational March 2012, will be used for smelting plant as well as to support Sarawak Corridor Renewable Energy (SCORE) in Sarawak. It seems the planned undersea cable to channel the electricity to West Malaysia, as originally planned, was scrapped.

Dr Lee, who is also the Member of Parliament for Gopeng expressed that the Bakun project was a major blunder due to poor planning. It was carried out merely to serve the interest of selected few, including parties involved in biomass clearance of the area (to extract billion ringgit worth of timber) and conglomerates such as Cahaya Mata Sarawak Berhad who will set up aluminum smelting plant using cheaper-than-market electricity from Bakun.

The Bakun project which was revived in 2000, after 2 failed attempts before, was targeted for completion by September 2007, but has since delayed until March 2012. It was carried out at great expense. Besides the financial burden, Bakun Project also caused forest covering the size of Singapore to be flooded and 10,000 indigenous people to loss their homes and be relocated.

Since the current energy requirement for whole of Sarawak is only 1500 Megawatt, the extra 2400 Megawatt from Bakun will have nowhere to go, unless there is existing industry which will consume the excess electricity generated. Even though there were repeated announcements of aluminum smelting plant, a pulp and paper plant and even the world’s biggest steel plant, all these projects remain on paper, without information on the economic viability and environmental impact. For example, the most contentious issue for the panned aluminum smelting plant by Cahaya Mata Sarawak Berhad was the electricity tariff, which will determine the economic viability of the smelting plant. Where will the electricity go if none of these projects materialize?

Hence according to Dr Lee, the RM 7.3 billion spent so far for an economically ill-conceived, socially disruptive and environmentally disastrous Bakun Hydroelectricity Project is scandalous. The same amount of money would have been more than enough to power all the long houses and remote settlements in Sarawak. With the amount of money, 100% coverage for electricity supply for whole of Sarawak will become reality, instead of current 72.6% where many areas in Sarawak still cannot get electricity supply.

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