Flying Squad Found Bakun Dam In Good And Safe Condition

3 OCTOBER 2023

The Dam Safety Flying Squad (an ad-hoc team coordinated by the Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Ministry and comprising experts from various technical departments) visited the Bakun Dam in October 2022 for its 2021-2022 inspection and found the dam to be in good and safe condition, as shared in its exit presentation to Sarawak Energy; the dam’s owner and operator.

The Bakun Hydroelectric Plant, which won the Best Dam Operator (under the Dam Safety Programme category) 2023 at the International Conference on Dam Safety Management and Engineering in March 2023; was among the selected dams to undergo the audit conducted by the Dam Safety Flying Squad last year. Bakun Hydroelectric Plant is also the recipient of the Malaysian Society for Occupational Safety and Health (MSOSH) Safety Awards; and winner of the Prime Minister’s Hibiscus Award (PMHA) Challenge Trophy 2023 and Excellent Achievement Award 2023.

Sarawak Energy’s hydropower facilities have been designed according to the highest international technical standards for durability and safety. Specifically, its hydropower projects are designed in accordance with guidelines established by the International Committee on Large Dams (ICOLD), an international body set up in 1928 to share knowledge and set standards and guidelines to ensure that dams are built and operated safely. These guidelines are also used to ensure dam safety worldwide including seismically active regions of the world such as the Himalayas and Japan.

Besides the audit conducted by the Flying Squad, Sarawak Energy also appoints independent international hydropower consultants to conduct Dam Safety Review audits of all its hydro dams every 5 to 7 years in accordance with the requirements established by MyDAMS (Malaysia Dam Safety Management) and ICOLD (the International Committee on Large Dams) Guidelines. The last Dam Safety Review for Bakun Dam was conducted in October 2022 and found the dam to be in fair and good condition.

Findings & Rectification

Highlights of the latest international independent review panel and dam safety Flying Squad’s audit findings for 2022, as well as the proactive actions taken are as follows:

  • Sediment formation in the reservoir – the Bakun Dam is designed to withstand sedimentation up to 1,000 years.
  • Instrumentation condition - comments by the auditors have been addressed.
  • Dam seepage level is normal and within tolerance.
  • Integrity of main structures - minor defects highlighted in the audits were not detrimental to the structure stability, and have been rectified.
  • Minor soil erosion of downstream slopes of Bakun Dam were assessed as non-critical and have been resolved.

In addition, Sarawak Energy has two certified Dam Inspectors by the Malaysian National Committee on Large Dams (MYCOLD). The company’s Dam Safety Division conducts biannual internal reviews, on top of the daily, weekly and monthly routine inspections conducted by its onsite personnel. Earlier this year, the Bakun Dam’s Seismicity System was refurbished, and instrumentation was also automated.

Responsible Hydropower Development in Sarawak

Sarawak Energy is guided by the internationally recognised Hydropower Sustainability Standards, working closely with the International Hydropower Association (IHA), and aligned with the San Jose Declaration on Sustainable Hydropower to enhance the sector’s contribution to the energy transition.

Moreover, Sarawak Energy has been working with IHA to train its staff to use the internationally recognised Hydropower Sustainability Standard’s Tools. Seventy-five staff have been trained as certified users of the Tools. In addition, 23 staff are now recognised as provisional accredited assessors of the Tools, providing a higher level of expert knowledge and demonstrating Sarawak Energy’s high commitment to sustainability. The company aspires to achieve certification of its projects under the recently introduced Hydropower Sustainability Standard.