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The earlier Bakun Dam. built with Hydro Tasmania involvement
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Hydro Chairman David Crean: From Tasmanian Times, here
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Villagers displaced by the Bakun Dam

BRUNO MANSER FUND, BASEL, SWITZERLAND
Australian company under pressure for human rights violations

Australian company Hydro Tasmania is involved in human rights violations in the construction of a series of dams in the Malaysian rainforest. Natives are now blocking the construction works at one dam, and an international NGO coalition is calling on the Australian authorities to recall Hydro Tasmania.

Two hundred to three hundred natives have been blocking the construction works at the Murum mega-dam in the Malaysian rainforest for three weeks. They decided to block the access road and the supply of materials for the 944 megawatt dam when they heard about the conditions of their resettlement. Murum dam, located in Sarawak on the Malaysian part of Borneo Island, will displace around 1,500 people from the ethnic groups of the Western Penan and the Kenyah.

The affected communities at the Murum dam are complaining about the violation of their rights: they have never received any official information concerning their resettlement, although the dam will start to be impounded by early 2013. Recently leaked information suggests that the compensation will impoverish them, and their new farmland is already occupied by palm oil plantations. This will prevent them from continuing to pursue their traditional livelihoods.

One of the main international collaborators in the construction of the Murum dam is an Australian company: Hydro Tasmania. Hydro Tasmania, an electricity generating company owned by the government of Tasmania, has been advising Sarawak on the construction of a series of 12 dams – of which the Murum dam is only the first one. Sarawak Energy, the local company constructing the dams, has been profiting from a knowledge transfer from Hydro Tasmania as well as from studies and staff secondments.

An international coalition of NGOs from Australia, Europe, USA and Japan is now approaching the Australian foreign minister and the Tasmanian Premier. They are demanding an investigation into the role of Hydro Tasmania and the suspension of Hydro Tasmania’s operations in Sarawak. Hydro Tasmania’s close ties with Sarawak Energy suggest that Hydro Tasmania may be involved in decisions that are leading directly to human rights violations of Sarawak’s indigenous peoples.

Sarawak Energy acknowledges in its 2010 Annual Report that Hydro Tasmania’s skills are “essential” for the construction of the planned 12 dams. The collaboration between the two companies ought to be formalized through a formal partnership agreement. For such close collaboration, Hydro Tasmania ought to have followed proper due diligence procedures before entering into a business relationship. In advising Sarawak Energy and providing staff, they are complicit in human rights violations committed by their business partner.

Download letters to Foreign Minister Bob Carr and Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings:
BMF_Sarawak_Letter_to_Australian_Foreign_Minister.pdf
BMF_Sarawak_Letter_to_Tasmanian_Premier.pdf

Earlier on Tasmanian Times, includes full links to all related earlier stories: Ta Ann-backer Abetz visits Sarawak. Sarawak People tell Ta Ann to go

First published: 2012-10-18 07:37 PM

• Huon Valley Environment Centre, Still Wild Still Threatened: Protest today – Hydro Tasmania office at Davey St Hobart
Today 19 October 2012
Time – 9:30am

Members of the Huon Valley Environment Centre and Still Wild Still Threatened will protest about Hydro Tasmania’s ongoing involvement in any capacity in dam building ventures in Sarawak, Malaysia. This protest is in solidarity with indigenous peoples of Sarawak who are blockading the construction of the Murum Dam.

This week a coalition of international NGO’s sent a letter to the Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings and Federal Foreign Minister, requesting an investigation into the role of Hydro Tasmania and the suspension of Hydro Tasmania’s operations in Sarawak.

Hydro Tasmania has been advising Sarawak Energy on the construction of a series of 12 dams – of which the Murum dam is only the first one. Sarawak Energy, the local company constructing the dams, has employed Hydro Tasmania’s knowledge and expertise in the form of studies and staff secondments. Sarawak Energy openly admits that the Murum dam project’s “reservoir filling will displace around 1,400 Penan people”.

• HVEC, SWST: Tasmania stands in solidarity with Sarawak

Members of environment groups Huon Valley Environment Centre and Still Wild Still Threatened, are gathering outside Hydro Tasmania’s Davey Street offices in Hobart to stand in solidarity with native Sarawakians protesting against the construction of the Murum dam in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo. Ten members have stationed themselves outside the building and are displaying a banner that reads “Hydro Tas: Damning Sarawak”.

The Murum dam will flood nearly 250 sq. km and will displace at least 1400 native people from their traditional lands. The dam construction, overseen by Sarawak Energy, is being facilitated by Hydro Tasmania, which is providing assistance to Sarawak Energy in the form of knowledge and expertise.

“Approximately three hundred native Sarawakians have been blocking the construction works at the Murum dam in the Malaysian rainforest for three weeks. They decided to blockade the routes to the construction site after they learnt they faced forced resettlement, the terms of which they are still in the dark about. They have vowed to remain at the blockade until they are properly consulted and their concerns are addressed in full,” said Ali Alishah, spokesperson for Huon Valley Environment Centre.

“Tasmanian businesses must not involve themselves in any capacity in a venture that is responsible for the displacement of indigenous peoples from their traditional lands. We cannot understand why Hydro Tasmania, a state owned business, continues to assist such morally unjust and environmentally destructive practices.” said Miranda Gibson spokesperson for Still Wild Still Threatened.

A letter, sent earlier this week, by several international non-governmental organisations to the state and federal governments, highlighting the corrupt nature of the processes behind, and the effect of, dam building on indigenous populations in Sarawak, has led the community to seriously question Hydro Tasmania’s involvement in Sarawak.

“Hydro Tasmania needs to maintain the highest humanitarian standards and must adhere to the highest code of conduct and practices, both here and abroad. It cannot purport to do so whilst assisting enterprises that flood the lands of indigenous peoples, displacing them into a life of poverty and cultural degradation. There is only one way forward. Hydro Tasmania must withdraw all assets and operations from Sarawak immediately.” said Ali Alishah.

“We will continue to highlight the plight of native Sarawakians and we stand alongside the Penan in their fight for their homelands whether it be against logging, dam building or corruption from any arms of the Taib Mahmud regime.” said Miranda Gibson.

Please find attached copies of letters from Bruno Manser Fund, Huon Valley Environment Centre, Still Wild Still Threatened and other international organisations to Foreign Affairs Minister, Robert Carr, and Tasmanian Premier, Lara Giddings. Also included is Bruno Manser Fund’s media release highlighting concerns surrounding Hydro Tasmania’s involvement in Sarawak.

• Download document to go with Comment 5 by George Harris, aka Woodworker::
Environment_and_Communications_Legislation_Committee_questions.docx