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Environmental Economics The Bakun Dam Project In Sarawak

2434 words - 10 pages

For more than 30 years, there have been discussions concerning the development of the Bakun Dam in the East Malaysian state of Sarawak. If built, the dam would be the largest in South-East Asia. The Bakun Dam: A Case Study indicates that generating 2400 megawatts of power, it would provide electricity for all of Sarawak, and for industries and cities in mainland Malaysia, through a cable under the South China Sea. At 650 kilometres, this would be by far the longest cable in the world.The Bakun Dam has been a highly controversial issue spanning over three decades as its validity and use to the people of Malaysia have been questioned. For the cost that involves producing this dam, at seven billion dollars and rising, is there a need for so much power at all? The main environmental issue here is whether Sarawak should sacrifice forests in order to promote the economic growth of its country or cease construction to preserve the traditional environment and standards of living.It is essential to the people of Malaysia that the construction of the dam continues, as it will benefit them in the future through industrialisation. This dam can be seen as a source of employment for the nation, the creation of international interest, and increased economic growth. There are also many negatives to the completion of the dam; which include the displacement of natives, increased foreign debt, and the gradual deterioration of the dam after many years. There are many other factors that contribute to this issue, however, the above three positive components are fundamental to the further growth of Malaysia.The main stakeholders involved in this area of interest include Malaysian non-governmental organisations opposed to the project, indigenous peoples affected, non-governmental organisations outside Malaysia opposed the project, Malaysian State and Federal governments, Ekran Berhand (the developer), and international corporations contributing to the project.The Bakun Dam has had an uncertain, highly controversial history. The project is of importance to Malaysian political and business leaders as there is a promise of abundant electricity and a lever by which Sarawak could be lifted out of its "backward" state. It has been said that for environmentalists and the native people, the project would flood tropical forests and force the resettlement of approximately 10 000 people in order to generate high cost electricity, for which no market might exist (Dams Initiative). These contrasting perspectives on the Bakun Dam make it valuable as a case study to identify the best power solution for a nation's economic problem.There have been many complications regarding the Bakun Dam since its introduction. Bevis (1995, p.65) stated that 'after initial surveys in the early 1960s, in 1986, a decision by the national government was made to construct the dam. In 1990, official postponement of the project was made due to protests and doubts about the dam's economic viability'. In 1993...

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