Sarawak to develop 10 river basins for hydropower

Sarawak to develop 10 river basins for hydropower

Plan is being drawn up, says state minister.

SARAWAK will develop 10 river basins statewide to supply hydroelectricity. State Public Utilities and Telecommunication Minister Datuk Julaihi Narawi said the ambitious plan was being drawn up.

“We have already identified the 10 river basins where river currents can be harnessed to generate electricity. We are looking at the cascading dam design. “The plan of the premier is to generate 10 gigawatts of electricity at any one time by 2030,” he said at a Hari Raya gathering in Kuching.

On January 15, Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg confirmed the state government would go ahead with the construction of three more hydroelectric dams in the state.

He said the new dams would be built to cascade.

“The new dams will be built in Sungai Gaat in Kapit district (in central Sarawak), Sungai Tutoh in Baram district (northern Sarawak) and Sungai Belaga in Belaga district (central Sarawak).

“These new dams will not flood very big regions,” he had said, adding the dams would be constructed by private companies. The state-owned Sarawak Energy Bhd will manage the distribution of electricity.

Johari said “the local communities in Baram and Kapit and Belaga wanted the new dams to be constructed to supply electricity for them. He did not say how much money would be spent on the three new dams or when construction would start.

Sarawak already has five large dams – the Bakun Dam, Batang Ai Dam, Murum Dam, Baleh Dam and Bengoh Dam.

Last year, a civil society group had objected to the cascading dams, which it said were money-sapping projects that were more expensive to build and maintain. It said the dams would not produce electricity during the dry season.

Environmental watchdog group Save Rivers Network said former Sarawak Energy Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Torstein Sjotveit had in 2015 stated in a report that cascading dams were not practical for a state like Sarawak which was used to prolonged dry spells and even serious drought.

Save Rivers chairman Peter Kallang said the idea of cascading dams in Sarawak had cropped up in the past but in 2015, Torstein had said that such dams were more expensive to build than conventional designs.

“Torstein also said such cascading dams are not practical in Sarawak as they cannot produce electricity when the river level drops,” said Kallang.

“In Sarawak we have seen extreme dry seasons and even severe prolonged drought.

“Under such circumstances, these cascading dams are money-sapping projects, so why insist on building them?”

– April 15, 2024.

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