Murum HEP On Track to Deliver Sarawak’s Power Demands

Relocation of indigenous people and protection of wildlife, flora and fauna proceeding according to plan

Kuching, 23 September 2013: Sarawak Energy Berhad today confirmed the 944MW Murum Hydro Electric Project (HEP) is on track to deliver power by end of 2014 as the important milestone is marked by the closure of the diversion tunnel gate last Saturday. The reservoir is expected to be filled up within 14 months for the water to reach its optimal level. Relocation of the indigenous communities is planned to be completed by end of this year, well before the water reaches the affected villages.

This in line with the planning for the first phase of power generation that supports the requirements and consumption demands of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) agenda. The SCORE initiative is the catalyst that will propel the State’s economic growth through the development of industrial activities in areas where Sarawak has a competitive advantage. Highlighting the investors’ confidence in SCORE, it is crucial to note that the power generated from Murum HEP has seen 100% uptake and construction of plants at Samalaju are at an advanced stage.

Leveraging on Sarawak’s hydropower potential, Sarawak Energy is committed to support the State Government’s strategy of placing energy at the centre of economic and industrial growth in the State, using hydropower to attract a variety of new industries in specially-designated zones.

Based on projections, it is expected that by the middle of the next decade, residential, retail and commercial customers in Sarawak will require 2,000 MW while SCORE customers will consume at least 6,000 MW. The State’s GDP is expected to expand 5-fold by 2030, with approximately 1.6million jobs to be created when SCORE is fully operational.

Part of this SCORE socio-economic growth realization will see the indigenous communities from the affected hydropower project sites benefiting from the development with better housing, access to clean water, electricity, education, medical, enhanced infrastructure and  other amenities.

A good example is the Murum HEP development, where 89 Penan families from Long Wat (one of the villages affected by the Murum HEP impoundment) became the pioneer group to move into their new homes at the Tegulang Resettlement village on 10 September 2013. Since moving in, the community have enjoyed proper amenities and facilities provided by the government. The remainder of the villages will move in stages to their new settlement sites as chosen by them, by end this year.

Polycarp Wong, Vice President of Hydro, Sarawak Energy said, “It is disturbing that there are certain groups of people are trying to give the wrong impression that when impoundment starts, it will submerge the people who are yet to be relocated.  The reservoir filling will take about 14 months for the water to reach its optimal level of which the villages would have been already relocated well before that.

As a responsible organisation, answerable to the people and the State Government, Sarawak Energy has carefully developed and planned for the resettlement process in accordance to the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) and the rumours of people’s safety is at stake  should be dismissed. The reservoir filling process poses no danger as the timelines and procedures have been carefully mapped out. Sarawak Energy places high priority on matters related to safety of the people and conservation of the environment and its wildlife and habitat.

 “Currently there are a number of people from the Murum Penan communities who have gathered at the HEP site and have tabled their concerns on safety and also their requests to expedite the resettlement process and their compensation packages. Sarawak Energy is engaging closely with them, providing an assurance that the process is following our detailed planning. However, we must stress that we will not entertain any illegal conduct that jeopardizes the safety of the people and the implementation of the project.  We wish to assure the public that Sarawak Energy, with the strong support and assistance from the related department and agencies are working closely to effectively address the issues on site,” added Polycarp.
Other than giving precise attention to the resettlement process, Sarawak Energy has also taken comprehensive steps in the conservation of the wildlife animals, flora and fauna within the Murum HEP area. Sarawak Energy had signed a collaboration agreement in April this year with Sarawak Forestry for the Wildlife Monitoring and Rescue (WiMoR)  operation designed for the conservation of the wildlife, flora and fauna within the Murum HEP area. 

The signing validates Sarawak Energy’s commitment towards sustainability in hydro development, both in terms of managing potential impact to the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem in the project-affected area and ensuring that any impact to the biodiversity arising from project activities are managed responsibly.

Under the agreement, WiMoR’s initiative will be led and managed by Sarawak Energy’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) team and Sarawak Forestry will undertake the wildlife monitoring and rescue operations that will be implemented over a period of two years.  A reconnaissance survey of protected species and medicinal plants was done in December last year by the Flora Component Team while the stream survey along the river took place early this month by the Fish Component Team.  The Fauna Component has also started with the preparations and has strategized its team for the rescue missions.