Thousands are set to lose their homes, as a controversial hydro power scheme gets underway.
In the Malaysian state of Sarawak, the Bakun Dam has already flooded an area the size of Singapore. Some of those displaced say they’ve never received the full compensation they were promised.
The state government, working with Australian company Hydro Tasmania, is embarking on an ambitious plan to build a further 12 dams - flooding vast tracts of river valley land - and displacing tens of thousands of indigenous people.
Hydro Tasmania, an Australian state-owned energy company is involved with dam construction projects in Sarawak by the Sarawak Energy Board while Malaysian timber giant Ta Ann has received major timber harvesting contracts in Tasmania.
Both businesses are linked through Hamed Sepawi, who is the chairman of Sarawak Energy Board and Ta Ann. He is also a cousin and close business associate of the state’s Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud.
Clare Rewcastle Brown, the sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, say there is a lack of accountability and transparency over the hydropower projects.
Environmentalists and political activists in Malaysia and Australia are calling for the ‘unhealthy’ business ties between Tasmania and Sarawak to be investigated and audited by an independent body.
The Malaysian government says the 20gigawatt project capacity can change the economic face of Sarawak and says its links with Hydro Tasmania are legitimate, while the companies involved deny any wrongdoing.
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